No one-sentence summation (no matter how correct or clever) really does justice to the Scissor Sisters. As a girdle-tight, piss-elegant rock unit unafraid to play “disco,” they reinvent the exhilarating DIY eclecticism of ’80s dance-oriented rock as if the ’90s never happened. What Rubén Blades once said about the irresistible appeal of salsa goes double for the pomo-homo electrodisco of the SS: This music’s got balls so big you can almost see ’em. Accordingly, SS songs sound a clarion call for the next sexual revolution—one triumphant over both AIDS and constricting gender categories—set to infectious dancefloor grooves that swing so hard you could come in your pants from sheer sonic friction. They may not be George Bush’s idea of a military band, but I’ll take marching orders from the Scissor Sisters any day.
Influenced by everyone from the Bee Gees to Bryan Ferry, the SS sing hooky, mostly radio-friendly anthems that run the gamut from brooding keyboard ballads like “Mary” to the rollicking “Honky Cat” sass of “Take Your Mama Out All Night.” In addition to launching catchy club singles, they’ve been giving some of the most entertaining live shows seen all year. Lead vocalist Jake Shears uses his falsetto as if he were David Bowie reincarnated as Sylvester; Shears’s alter ego Ana Matronic projects a powerful yet ever shifting persona, sometimes full of Shirley Manson gravitas, sometimes as playful as RuPaul enjoying an Annie Lennox moment. Between Shears’s ripped torso, guitarist Derek G’s boy-militant swagger, and Matronic’s mod Bond Girl drag, they offer plenty of onstage eye candy.
Shears and keyboardist Babydaddy, who compose and produce the band’s original material, are not only funky but smart, a killer combination when infusing dance music with both humor and politics. (They also understand exactly why it’s hipper to be Ace of Base than ABBA.) Sidestepping the superficial angst that too often trivialized the synthpop of many seminal British haircut bands, the Sisters dig deep into the minefields of romance, identity politics, and pier queen etiquette. The results are memorable lyrics that fully convey a marginalized reality, in which tortured libidos and contradictory social ambitions are explored with total emotional honesty. As the self-affirming young hustler invoked in “Filthy & Gorgeous” asserts: “Ain’t no sum’bitch gonna treat me like a ‘ho/I’m a classy honey, kissy-huggy, lovey-dovey Ghetto Princess!”
Having strutted out of the Brooklyn underground with their first 12-inch singles on A Touch of Class about a year ago, the combo will release their debut album in January on Polydor. The Scissor Sisters have already crossed Pink Floyd with Frankie Goes to Hollywood on a cover of “Comfortably Numb,” and now they’re being tapped to remix the new Blondie single. Even if you finger the Sisters as Mott the Hoople meets the B-52’s, you can’t use that glib formula to predict what these nimble pranksters will come up with next.