Scissor Sisters
"Ta Dah"

(Universal Motown 2006)Scissor Sisters - Ta Dah

The fact that I loved every other minute of the Scissor Sisters' new LP "Ta-Dah" proves I'm a hypocrite. Back when The Strokes and White Stripes were scoring Top 20 hits by impersonating old punks like Television and The Stooges, or when Interpol was doing the same with Joy Division, I dissed them all as copycats, and their fans as dupes for buying this second-rate shite when most of them had never heard the originals*. However, when the Scissor Sisters came along and exhumed the corpses of my favorite 70s artists on their 2003 debut "Return to Oz" -- namely the Bee-Gees, Abba, and Sir Elton John -- suddenly there was nothing wrong with a modern band looking to the past for inspiration, and the fact that I recognized every stolen hook made me a pop-music expert. So yes, I'm a hypocrite for enjoying "Ta-Dah"... and I don't fucking care.

That said, there's a case to be made for the superiority of the Scissor Sisters' brand of copy-catting. For one thing, while I'm not aware of Television's Richard Hell ever having done a cameo on a Strokes album or Peter Hook giving props to Interpol, "Ta-Dah"'s leadoff track "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" features the actual Elton John on piano, rocking harder than he has since 1983. The Sisters, for their part, make the most of John's cameo by supporting it with an exquisite dance floor jam that slinks between honky-tonk, misty disco melodrama, and a stomping chorus, neatly tied together with spacey Pink Floyd guitar licks.

Next up is "She's My Man", a song that, with its more-Elton-than-Elton blues piano and subtle-as-a-rubber-fist gay subtext, seems the work of another band doing a Scissor Sisters impression. "I love it when she chokes me / in the back seat of her riverboat / 'cause she's my man / and we got all the balls we need..." sings Jake Shears in his fruity faux-Southern drawl. It's the kind of thing the Sisters should be able to turn into a grand slam, yet it's so easy for them that they half-ass it, like a baseball slugger whacking home runs with a yawn during batting practice. This proves a problem on many of the other tracks, such as the sappy ballad "Land of a Thousand Words" and the disco-by-numbers cuts "Ooh" and "Paul McCartney."

Fortunately, there are other moments when the Scissor Sisters aren't on autopilot, such as the hilariously macabre "I Can't Decide". Taking Elton John and Bernie Taupin's fixation with Wild West saloons and borderline psychotics to the extreme, Jake Shears plays the role of a kidnapper who "can't decide / whether you should live or die / oh, you'll probably go to heaven / please don't hang your head and cry...". Ana Matronic, who previously seemed the token girlfriend/hag to the boys in the band, does a decent Debbie Harry snarl over old-school synths and guitars on the Giorgio Moroder pastiche "Kiss You Off." The closer "Everybody Wants the Same Thing" finally sees the Scissor Sisters taking one of their trademark piano rockers and throwing their all into it (and it doesn't hurt that the song has an irresistible sing-along chorus).

Like many sophomore albums, "Ta-Dah" is more of the same, only slightly less fresh this time around. If you didn't like "Return to Oz", it won't change your mind, and if you did like "Return to Oz," it won't quite measure up. Still, there's enough quality material here to argue that, even if Scissor Sisters aren't real artists with a grand musical vision, they're at least capable rip-off artists with good musical taste.

* I've since come to appreciate Interpol as more than Joy Division clones... however I still can't stand the White Stripes and Strokes.

B

buy it!