Five superstylish downtown NYC party people who create retro-fit dance-pop of absolute fabulosity, the Scissor Sisters make music that suggests Friday nights so fun they don’t wind down until Tuesday afternoon. The quintet’s 2004 debut took disco, glam, art rock, easy listening, and anything else on AM radio circa 1976 (except maybe John Denver) and reworked them into something that felt warmly familiar and future perfect. Singer-songwriter Jake Shears sounded like Elton John back when he wore gigantic shades; producer-songwriter Babydaddy’s tunes recalled Donna Summer producer Giorgio Moroder after 10 Mangopolitans; and singer Ana Matronic proved the group was open to more than runway-ready men. Their mirror-ball cover of Pink Floyd’s ”Comfortably Numb” and tropically tinged ”Take Your Mama” made them U.K. stars and U.S. cult icons; they have even won the admiration of Elton, who adds piano to their new single.
Strangely, they don’t seem all that stoked about their success. That new song is ”I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” and despite being a great Bee Gees boogie, it’s a tribute to not taking your mama out. And it kicks off an album that undercuts whimsy with an unexpected but intriguing air of melancholy. It isn’t that Ta-Dah lacks glitzy fun. ”Ooh” is a backyard-shaking funk fantasia, and the electro-throbbing ”Paul McCartney” is a euphoric fan letter with a Beatles-worthy bridge. But even some of the kickiest stuff has an unexpected emotional punch. ”She’s My Man” is a hugely catchy ode to New Orleans set to the tune of Elton’s ”I’m Still Standing,” a Mardi Gras regular’s lamentation of the ”rains like Revelations” that turned our nation’s den of decadence into an apocalyptic hellhole.
The darkness deepens as the band moves beyond dance-pop. ”I Can’t Decide” and ”Intermission” are Bowie-style music hall numbers that uncork forebodings of doom and death. (”Happy yesterday to all/We were born to die,” Shears sings on ”Intermission.”) Had they merely spackled on layers of ’70s escapism, the Sisters might have devolved into gaudy mediocrity (like something you’d get from Project Runway‘s Kayne if he made CDs instead of gowns).
Instead, as the group move further into their broody selves and beyond mimicking their heroes, they seem less fabber-than-thou and more like real folk. ”The Other Side” imagines meeting a lover in heaven, because this mean world is hard to take. ”Might Tell You Tonight” is an aging partyer’s ode to settling down. And ”Everybody Wants the Same Thing” is a gospel-flavored salvo for love’s universal power that is almost political in our values-obsessed age. It’s a fitting close to a CD that not only ponders life after Saturday night but demands we do something true with Monday morning, too.