10 Years of "Scissor Sisters" - An appreciation.




"Scissor Sisters" by Scissor Sisters

10 years ago this week saw the release of what is still my favourite album of all time.

I was 13 years old. My father went on a road trip down the east coast of the US with his best mate. Both of them moustachioed and riding Harleys (such badasses) and there I was pleading with my father to bring this album back with him for me, as it was released stateside long before it was released here in the U.K.

In my childlike naiveté I was excited to hear more from Scissor Sisters, they seemed fun, I heard their haunting cover of "Comfortably Numb" first and it was unlike anything I'd ever heard before and then I heard "Laura", the intro to which I thought sounded like the theme music to Thomas the Tank Engine, which was nice.

Beyond the children's TV similarities, the album was a sweet shop of camp and nostalgically referential treats. A blend of 70s Disco and 80s Rock some how sounded modern. It felt raw, a glittery sequin blade cutting through 90s and early 00s pop, it was like nothing else at the time. Having grown up listening to Elton John, the prospect of a modernised, more explicit, but equally as flamboyant act was too tantalising for words.

"Scissor Sisters" was the first album I ever knew every single word to. Every word of every song memorised and sang aloud. Coincidentally, it was also the very first album on which I genuinely  loved every track and could listen to it from start to finish without skipping. Man, I wore that CD out in my Sony Walkman. I'm surprised it still works (the CD that is, the Walkman is sadly, long gone *longing face*)



Both "Mary" and "Laura" featured heavy, angsty, unapologetic piano keys complementing their unapologetic flamboyance. "Filthy/Gorgeous" with its dirty guitar riffs and electronic falsetto vocals is a message to the world  to embrace them - you are filthy and they are gorgeous. Deal with it.

This is who they are. They're not trying to fit in to the mainstream market because they know they don't. They've probably never fit in anywhere. Conformity is boring, it's safe, it's generic and predictable, everything the Scissor Sisters are not, everything they stand against.

This album was an introduction and an invitation to come into their world, either you entered it or you didn't, it didn't matter because they were stamping their mark on the world, proverbially pissing on the charts and loving what they were doing. Their passion for what they do is still as infectious today as it was ten years ago, I assure you.

The album pours seamlessly from upbeat San Francisco disco, to smoky New York jazz bar in seconds. It was, it is, pure escapism. Even the album cover resonated with me. Being brought up in the Welsh valleys, I was constantly daydreaming of a city's bright lights, a more enticing, liberal, resplendent life. I dreamt of leaving the countryside behind and running away to be an all-round fabulous being (which at the time, I was pretty sure was a full-time job).

At 13, I was a naive teenager (the name "Scissor Sisters" itself was way too advanced for me to comprehend that it may have been reference to anything other than scissors and sisters). I wasn't familiar with gay culture, I didn't really understand myself, what it even meant to be gay. Information on the topic wasn't exactly to-hand at the time, but this album freed me of labels, of stereotypes, of expectancies, it says "Fuck it, whoever you are, whatever you are - be you".

"Take Your Mama" obviously can't go without a mention here. Being so incredibly close with my mother, I knew I needed to open her mind, to educate her on the lifestyle - "We're gonna take your mama out all night/yeah, we'll show her what it's all about" - I instantly felt part of their world. They knew exactly how I was feeling, they'd probably been through the same things I had, and look at them now! No seriously, LOOK AT THEM -



Did I mention that I'd never seen or heard anything like this before? Who knew people like this actually existed?! I mean, Jake Shears.... just look at him. His high, melodic voice that could sound ecstatic and melancholic in the same breath. His confidence, he seemed self-assured and he's wearing black leather trousers, a ripped string vest, and black feathers for Christ's sake - how could I not want to be him?!

And then, cutting through endless tanned, primped, preened, blonde all-American pop princesses stood Ana Matronic. What a queen. Pale, tattooed, with flame-red hair she had no apologies for who she was or how she looked. She is sensational. A strong, talented, creative woman, surrounded by her outrageous gaggle of gays, every little gay boy wanted to be her best friend. Every little Jake, wanted an Ana.

The album is more than catchy, it is infectious, poetic, sometimes romantic and also unashamedly humorous. Their lyrics are deeply referential to American gay culture, mentions of San Francisco, Tina Turner, New York City, were laden in songs such as "Music is the Victim" a song that the genius of which, I only understood as I grew older.

You could argue that these references are esoteric, but rather than shutting you out, they fascinate you, they make you want to understand the references and learn about the band and their culture. They want you on board their outrageous ride through music, fashion, art. Their slogan "We are Scissor Sisters, and so are you!" was an invitation to align yourself with them, it was the "It Gets Better" of its day. You are not alone, and though it feels like you were alone before they came along, it turns out, you were never alone, there has always been people out there, somewhere, thinking, doing, feeling exactly what you are. Wherever there is someone who shuns you, there are five people right here, ready to embrace you.

 As most of you will know, Lady Gaga is practically my religion, but long before Gaga's "Born This Way" the Scissor Sisters were energetically spreading their message of acceptance, encouraging people everywhere, gay or straight, to fall in love, to make mistakes but ultimately - embrace who you are. And for me, that's precisely what they did. 

Now, all I can do is listen to the music and thank them for helping me form who I am today.

To the next decade!



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