The self-titled 2004 debut for the Scissor Sisters is still making its way through the smaller avenues of the music industry. It’s not taking that long, however, for these hip and stylish babes to navigate the gay friendly highways already traversed by Elton John, George Michael, and Boy George. The difference is that there’s no ambiguity this time. In a post-Queer Eye world, this band has been able to make being gay a commodity. And why not? Closeted and mysterious vocal artists are so boring these days, and audiences can have a good ear for sincerity if given actual examples of composition and urgency.
Urban tales of the group’s NYC meeting and formation are already circulating. One of the best ones goes like this: chief song writers Jake Shears and the guy only known as Babby Daddy met performance artist Ana Matronic, the hostess of a decadent cabaret show in the Lower East Side. “She’s tough, amazing, glamorous…” the boys rave. She first met Jake at a Halloween party, where she’d dressed as a Warhol Factory reject, and he was in the guise of ‘a back-alley abortion.’ She recalls: “We both took one look at each other and thought: ‘Hey, you’re cool!!’” Right. That’s what gets me about all the articles and reviews I’ve read about this band. The critics love the gayness and their own personal images about the Sisters’ fabulous life. They might even mention how catchy and truly seventies the songs are. “Terrifically Gay!!” they exclaim.
Truth is, the songs are strong. In April of this year, the band hit the dance floor with the much talked about “Comfortably Numb.” The juxtaposition of a person’s account of his own death with heroin and dilettantish disco was truly brilliant. The full length followed and it revealed a great mix of 70’s and 80’s influences, including the Pet Shop Boys’ sweeping keyboards and melty-sweet sensitivity, Sir Elton John’s balladry and flamboyant style, the Bee Gee’s guitars, disco grooves, and falsettos and a glittery style-guide from Bowie’s old closet. The lyrics also revealed a sense of need that is lacking in most pop music. “There’s no indication of what we were meant to be/Sucking up to strangers, throwing wishes to the sea,” from “It can’t come quickly enough, “ points its own finger at some gay ways of life. The drug references, while never meant to say that the band isn’t enjoying them, are still slanted by a feeling of excess and guilt. “Take your Mama” is a fictional and metaphorical tale about coming out to your mother by taking her to a gay club with your gay friends and getting her wasted. It’s as sensitive as it is funny. And what’s Disco without a sense of style, presentation and pulsing dance beats? Live, the Scissor Sisters own the show—elements of cabaret, drag and balls out rockin’ dominate their act.
To say their status as Universal Records’ latest hype machine has them at the helm of all their control boards would be naïve, but the band knows what it’s doing. Personality is all over this record. The ideas and emotions might seem to hide behind the glamour pastiche, but a close listen shows the darkness behind their nostalgia. Maybe some cult-status is in the works, as a debut album on a major label is risky business. For now, The Scissor Sisters have promised us a fabulous party. This is their second time through Chicago on a massive world tour. This Wednesday, September 15, Metro 3730 N. Clark. Dj Sammy Jo provides pre and post music. Doors, 7pm, 18 & over. (Event Details)