It takes some real cojones to take an iconic '70s stoner anthem like Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and turn it into a disco barnburner, much less earn a Grammy nomination in the "Best Dance Recording" category with it. Scissor Sisters has got glitterballs galore.
The quintet, consisting of four men and "one drag queen who happens to be a woman", has taken a fine sense of outr‚ camp and mixed it with solid musicianship to create an homage of what might be considered blasphemy in less-capable hands. And that's just for starters.
Scissor Sisters earned the blessing of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Roger Waters for its Bee-Gees-esque rendition of the classic paen to psychotherapy and, while conquering the U.K., made fans of Elton John and Duran Duran as well.
The disco-izing of Pink Floyd might have turned heads on sheer chutzpah, but Scissor Sisters is the real deal. Close your eyes and listen to coming-out tale "Take Your Mama Out," and there's some '70s-vintage Elton John pop in those piano riffs. "Laura," another single from the group's eponymous Universal debut album, bores into the brain the way great pop should.
The EJ influence caught the ear of Sir Elton himself, who invited Scissor Sisters to open four shows of a U.K. tour with him, marking the first time the Rocket Man had deigned to play with an opening act in almost a decade.
And if rumor is to be believed, the next milestone for Scissor Sisters could be an announcement of an opening slot on the much-anticipated 2005 U2 world tour.
"We have not yet been asked," bassist Scott "Babydaddy" Hoffman insisted to Pollstar. "Really, I believe they have asked about our availability but there has been no formal thing. But that would be fabulous!"
Babydaddy and fellow Kentuckian and frontman Jake Shears moved to the Big Apple then brought singer and cabaret performance artist Ana Matronic into the mix. Guitarist Del Marquis and drummer Paddy Boom eventually filled out the group.
"She's been around," Babydaddy said of Ana, laughing. "She's from San Francisco. She was at a club called the Trannie Shack out there - kind of a drag queen club. She was one of the only real women performing!"
The group wrote and played its first song in 2001 and, within a week was putting together a high-energy live show in the gay clubs and cabarets of New York City.
The quintet shopped a demo, catching the attention of manager Neil Harris, who worked his European contacts to help get them bookings across the Pond and a recording contract with Polydor. The record deal included an option for Universal Worldwide to pick up the Scissor Sisters album in the U.S.
It was the U.K.'s biggest seller for 2004, moving just shy of 1.6 million units and beating out Britain's Keane.
But, considering the cultural beating the musical genre took at the end of its heyday some 25 years ago, can a flashy fivesome with a repertoire of dance music and a load of sexual innuendo make it in the States?
The reviews midway through its current U.S. tour are glowing, and the box office is, too, especially on the band's NYC home turf where Scissor Sisters sold out Hammerstein Ballroom and Irving Plaza last month. But the glittering group has wowed them in the Heartland as well.
"These things come in waves and I think to liken these times to the '70s is not too far off," Babydaddy said of what might seem like the unlikely resurrection of dance music.
Making an analogy to the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate rise of disco he added, "You have a war that nobody really understands, and we're living in very socially conservative times as well. We're regressing, in a way."
The band's fifth single, "Filthy/Gorgeous," is primed to challenge that regression with a decidedly FCC-unfriendly video, shot by "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" director John Cameron Mitchell.
"It's a little bit Mary Poppins! Mary Poppins cross-dressing on acid," Babydaddy said. "The song sort of merits something that isn't too reserved. And we got the video that absolutely sums up the song. It's pretty outrageous."
And if 2004 wasn't outrageous enough for Scissor Sisters, this year is shaping up to top even that. The band's current U.S. tour, booked by Marty Diamond for Little Big Man, winds down at the Wiltern Theatre LG January 31st and then heads for Japan and Australia.
While the members of Scissor Sisters are no doubt crossing their fingers for that call from U2, there's plans to record a second album later in the year
and that will take priority even if Bono himself calls, manager Neil Harris told Pollstar.
But the Scissor Sisters have those glitterballs packed, just in case.