9/23/2006

 

Album Review - Scissor Sisters: Ta-Dah

It might have been Erasure who coined the term "Abba-esque", but not since the heady days of Anni-Frid in a gold lame catsuit has an album come along that fits that description as well as Ta-Dah, the second massive album from New York's delicious Scissor Sisters.

The album opens with a guitar riff that you'd swear was lifted from the intro of some un-nameable Abba tune, and we are instantly whisked away into the disco-ball world of glitz and glamour that is "I Don't Feel Like Dancing", a track which has already snorted every top-ten chart in Europe up it's nose. In the UK, our fair Sisters even kept the seemimgly unstoppable Mr. Timberlake from reaching number one two weeks in a row. It's a rollicking uptempo Elton-esque stomper (Sir Elton actually does guest star playing piano), so authentically '70's that you could imagine it crackling from an ancient K-tel collection right between KC and the Sunshine Band and Kiki Dee. It's a bit polarizing - some folks still can't stand the music of that overproduced, glossy era - but I think you'd have to have a cold black soul not to feel the vital pulse of this song. The album starts as it means to go on, with "She's My Man", "I Can't Decide", and "Lights" packing some serious Abba hotness, each catchier than boogie fever and layered with sugary retro-pop goodness, and lyrically soaked in just enough cattiness and irony. The instrumentation is thick and wild seemingly including everything from banjo to accordion to noseflute. Jake Shears' riotous falsetto is in full effect here, and Ana Matronic's harmonies are spot on. I can't remember the last time I heard a band having so much pure fun on record.

With “Land of a Thousand Words,” the Sisters don a mellower shade of eye shadow, slowing the frantic pace for a Wings-style epic ballad. It’s nice, although not my favorite track on the album. It brings nothing new to the table and like McCartney’s Wings, it’s a temporary confection that melts away into pointlessness. The psychedelic Sgt. Pepper-isms and jazz harmonies of “Intermission” comes off a bit on he corny side, teetering perilously close to filler.

Ana Matronic gets the mic for her only lead vocal track (I think we all would have loved more Ana songs here), “Kiss You Off”, which successfully mixes in a touch of ‘80’s neon and a Benatar attitude with it’s “Summer Night City” vibe. “I don’t need another tube of that dimestore lipstick” spits Matronic before we are kissed off into the “Rio”-era Duran-isms of “Ooh.” I had to check the credits and make sure John Taylor himself wasn’t responsible for that breathlessly pumping art-disco bassline. “Paul McCartney” keeps the energy level high, but at this point the album is starting to get a little exhausting. The same-iness of many of the tracks creates the feeling of one long song and it’s a great song, no doubt, but the listener is starting to crave a change.

Fortunately, a change is what we get with the elegant and endlessly appealing “The Other Side”, perhaps the only track on the album with a hint of seriousness and drama, instead of endless party madness. It’s mid-tempo 80’s rock vibe again brings Duran Duran (or dare I say Kajagoogoo) to mind, complete with a blazing sax solo and dramatic spoken passage. It’s a highlight of the album, sounding quite reserved and lyrically sedate compared with the rest of the tracks. “Might Tell You Tonight” is melodically strong, but again suffers from samey production (more chugging piano and banjo action). Album closer “Everybody Wants The Same Thing” is perhaps meant to be Scissor Sisters epic statement. Grandiose and sassy, it’s like the Rolling Stones recording “Sticky Fingers” on E instead of heroin. A great future single.

Ta-Dah makes for an enormouly fun listening experience and has some great singles, but ultimately it’s a wee bit disappointing. Gone are the electro flourishes that lent their classic debut album an appealingly futuristic bent. Here, the band slips all the way into the retro hole and the music suffers from a lack of creative innovation and overproduction. Scissor Sisters really could be pushing the texture of pop music in new directions, but it seems like they’ve consciously chosen not to use that power. Ta-Dah is pretty much fluff, and nice fluff it is, but if they continue down the road of Abba and Elton pastiches, they’ll end up in the cut-out bin with Stars on 45. (Rating 7/10)


Comments:
Just today their song "Paul McCartney" popped up on the iPod while we were getting dinner ready and my kids started dancing around to it. Kids love dance music!
 
Okay, I'm not going to read your review yet cuz I'm adding this onto my Random CDs list of the week, so we'll see if we had a similar opinion... I'm off to get me some Respect ME - wooh hoo
 
Okay, we were pretty much the same, though yours was a lot more entertaining than my post
 
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