Monday, October 02, 2006

She's My Man

Song: She's My Man
Artist: Scissor Sisters
Album: Ta-Dah

“Difficult second album.” This phrase often comes up when a band or artist has a huge amount of success with their debut and fold under the pressure to match that success and/or top it. It’s understandable that the pressure can get to, or break, a band or artist in this day and age. The media loves the hot new thing, and once that has run its course they turn, because there isn’t much story in a continuing positive direction… but there is in the breakdown. If you’re going to follow up success, you have to do it better, bigger, and MORE than you did before.

The Scissor Sisters of 2004 were the hot new thing and while they didn’t make the impact over here that they did in Europe, they had five top twenty singles from their debut and narrowly beat out Keane for the most successful album of that year in the U.K. A massive globe trotting sold out tour established them as one of the new major players in the music industry, they garnered a lot of famous fans, including Elton John, and for two years the three million people that bought their debut all wondered what they would do next.

If their debut was their first Greatest Hits, “Ta-Dah” is their first album. “Scissor Sisters” was the introduction to a band that could do many things; Elton style honky-tonk (“Take Your Mama,”) future disco (“Comfortably Numb,”) electro ballad (“It Can’t Come Quickly Enough,”) club banger (“Filthy/Gorgeous.”) One different sound after another, but all very “Scissor Sisters-ish,” and all… good. While it did feel all over the place, things were held together by the cohesive theme of who the band was and the types of stories they wanted to tell with their songs.

This time around they aim to make an album like they use to in the 70’s, yet giving it all the Scissor Sisters sparkle, a one up on production, and a new focus on what they want to say next. And this time, they’re in love. Each song wants to express a new side, or new story on love. Opener “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” is the ode to a lover you’d rather stay home with, “I Can’t Decide” explores when someone you love frustrates you to anger, and “The Other Side” a love poem from the afterlife. Love can be beautiful and wonderful and dark and difficult. The Scissor Sisters understand this and that is what “Ta-Dah” is about.

Musically things are a continuation of what was happening on their debut. “Dancin’” is so catchy and fun there are no surprises that it’s become their first number one single. “Paul McCartney” continues the party vibe of “Filthy/Gorgeous” but isn’t a re-tread. Come to think of it, while you can make stylistic comparisons to some of these new songs to those on their debut, there is usually something extra, something a little more complex lyrically or musically. Once again they borrow from the past but use it to make something new. “She’s My Man” is a cross between Elton’s “I’m Still Standing” and Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It,” except it’s about a murderous cross-dressing Madam from New Orleans, sung by the man that loves her. “Land of A Thousand Words” is a James Bond theme without the movie, “Lights” a lite-funk bounce that recalls “Stayin’ Alive” Bee Gee’s. Only “Ooh” feels like a true re-tread of B-Side “The Skins” from their first album. Sure it’s fun, killer baseline, but it is 2004 Scissor Sisters.

The big surprise for me is “Might Tell You Tonight,” a beautiful straight-forward love ballad that could be called this album’s “Mary” but better, more complex in its up front emotional honesty. It could be a wedding song, sans the schmaltz or their Adult Contemporary smash here in America… if they wanted it to be.

Album, and I would guess concert closer “Everybody Wants The Same Thing” is the finale, a bring us all together sing along with a “can’t we all just get along” message. It’s a fitting end and a reminder what the Scissor Sisters are all about; it don’t matter where you’re from, how you dress, or what you look like. Everyone is invited to the party because we’re all here for the same reason. “Love is what I want, Love is what I give,
Right here's where I'm finding it, That's how I'm gonna live.”

I think they’ve beat the sophomore slump and prove not only that they can still write hit songs, but that they can put them together and make an album. I don’t quite understand the title, as “Ta-Dah” seems more apt to describe their debut, as in a “here’s what we can do” declaration. But maybe it is their proof to the world that they have more in them, that they have what it takes to be an important band ten or twenty years from now. Hit songs are one thing, and if there is on lesson they may have learned from Elton it’s the importance of staying power and mattering in a fast food you’re up, you’re down culture. “Ta-Dah” is their second album, but could be the first of their legacy.


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