[20] Scissor Sisters, ‘Comfortably Numb’

Scissor Sisters

It seems odd that the Scissor Sisters’ debut album was the UK’s biggest seller of 2004. It’s not as if its songs have entered the national fabric, is it? For good or bad, its chief rivals – Keane’s Hopes & Fears, The Killers’ Hot Fuss – have insinuated their way under our skin, their leading singles revived again and again for adverts, idents, party political campaigns, but I’d guess you’d be hard-pressed to name more than a couple of tracks from Scissor Sisters, let alone associate them with time or place.

I could be wrong. You might prance around to ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’ before every night down the pub. You should be prancing to ‘Comfortably Numb’, the cheekiest, most fully realised Pink Floyd cover yet; a record that, all the same, stands on its own two feet as a modern disco wonder, layered with Bee Gees, KC & The Sunshine Band, Frankie Knuckles, Joey Negro… Now, I’m no enormous Floyd fan, so I find extra relish in this thumb-of-the-nose to the crushing seriousness of the original – but, then again, all of Floyd have at some point or other given this version the props it deserves, so perhaps I’m the one who’s outside the joke.

Junior says: “It’s crazy but I do like it,” rolling her shoulders to that glittery pulse.

Best bit: The handclaps after “You may feel a little sick” puncturing any lingering pomposity.

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[1] Animal Collective, ‘My Girls’

For all its ecstatic brilliance, it’s annoying that I’ve known what the single of the year is for most of 2009. But it seemed so obvious when I heard it. I hadn’t been expecting truly great things from Animal Collective – maybe more of the same quirky pop, bellowed harmonies, abstract lyrics and squelchy textures – so when they came up with this dense, sticky, Beach Boys rave track that actually seemed to be about something (Panda Bear’s kids and – erm – Adobe slabs), it was as welcome as a fat cheque on a… well, right about now, please.

It’s struck me that I might simply be a sucker for this because I have daughters (and everyone likes to think that song is about them, don’t they? Don’t they?), but listen to those Frankie Knuckles-nabbing synths and the slow introduction of the bass that makes it sound like Orbital – and then the steady rise and layering of the sonics, the two different hooks that could stand as a chorus. And the “Woo!”s. Your hands are in the air, aren’t they?

On this play, Junior pranced like a deer from kitchen to living room, but she’s been tuned into ‘My Girls’ all year, along with its album Merriweather Post Pavilion, a mainstay of the car in 2009 – and probably the album of the year too. The Horrors’ one was good too, mind you. And Grizzly Bear’s. And Wild Beasts’.

We’re not going to do an album chart though. We’re going to do the Top 50 Best Singles of the 2000s, and we’ll start next week. Merry Christmas, all you cats.

I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things…

[1] Scissor Sisters, ‘Comfortably Numb’

Scissor Sisters

In many ways – visual, musical, camp – Scissor Sisters were a shot in the arm for a moribund pop scene. The teen bracket was thriving, sure, mainly through the reality parade, but Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, Babydaddy et al negotiated a glitzy path to the heart of the big record buyer. A crossover triumph. Their showtuny, Elton John-infused (and frankly pretty flimsy) debut album was neck and neck with the more prosaic Keane in the year’s bestselling chart, laying bare 50 Quid Man’s lesser-spotted appetite for gay-as-a-window flim-flammery.

They waved their jazz hands over the parapet with this impudent romp over Pink Floyd’s dour classic. We heard the Bee Gees, KC & The Sunshine Band and – perhaps most of all, but less acknowledged – Frankie Knuckles. What initially appealed as a Night Fever throwback turned out to be a modern house monster with pop bells on, a gleeful destruction of Roger Waters’ puffed-up, jacked-up sense poem, but a destruction somehow executed with poignancy and cheeky respect.

I think it’s respect anyway. The euphoric hand claps after “But you may feel a little sick” don’t suggest much forelock-tugging.

Reactions from Junior tread the thin line between the surreal and Keanely prosaic – “Are they cutting?” “Is it Lily Allen? Is it soldiers?” “Where’s the lady?” Junior’s in the back of the car, but I can hear her clapping along, sending up Pink’s peril and “Uh-huh-uh-huh”ing where called upon. “I sang lots of that,” she tells me as the song echoes away, so there’s your proof. A crossover triumph.


Come on, it’s time to go:

[2] The Source featuring Candi Staton, ‘You Got The Love’

Candi Staton

Are we supposed to think that she’s really been rescued? The poignancy of the lyric stretches beyond this redemption; it’s not uplifting. But the record, as a whole, is. I’ve got this nailed, haven’t I?

These so-called “bootlegs” are ten-a-penny these days, with varying degrees of success. This, of course, is the Candi Staton vocal on top of Frankie Knuckles’ acieeed fave ‘Your Love’ and it’s a match made in tearjerker house heaven. It has a profound effect on Junior too, a reaction to surpass all previous. She shakes the head, claps the hands, rocks back and forth, tries to jump out of the ring. You see, she’s heard too many ropey remixes of this song recently and is overwhelmed to hear the original. Sorry, “original”.

The Source geezer has a horse-flogger clause in his contract, compelling him to tweak this just a little every five years to wangle everyone some extra moolah. Seems to work a bally treat. None of the newer versions cut up Staton’s vocals and stick the juddering mesh underneath the main line, as this does in its second half. It makes the pain somehow sweeter.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]