[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] 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:

[10] Keane, ‘The Lovers Are Losing’

Keane

Yes, KEANE.

Now, I’ve never paid them much mind, let alone bought any of their guitarless records, but every bedwetter has its day and Keane’s arrived when they decided to beef up a bit, tighten up the songs and listen to a shedload of A-ha records. Because that’s what the best bits of Perfect Symmetry are – Scoundrel Days ‘08. ‘Spiralling’ was the eye-opener, the rather too eager Bowie-aper that put down an emphatic marker saying, “We’ve changed! We’re still pop, only more so, and look – guitar!” (seriously, it said that), but ‘The Lovers Are Losing’ has one of the most startlingly great choruses of the year so here it is.

Still, some things they’ll never shake off. Junior’s response is a flurry of air-piano and a general look of guileless choir-girl benevolence. Satire, that.