[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:

[7] Kylie Minogue, ‘I Believe In You’

Kylie Minogue

All things considered, at the end of the day, when all’s said and done, in the final analysis, weighing up the pros and cons, when it all comes down to it, if I’m pushed, I’d say ‘I Believe In You’ is my favourite Kylie single. Not ‘Shocked’, not ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, not ‘I Should be So Lucky’, not ‘Love At First Sight’ – no, I believe in ‘I Believe In You’.

So does Junior. And, if pushed, if asked if she likes Kylie’s singing, she says, “Yes.” And what else does she like? I meant what else does she like about the song, but… “Mermaids. And Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.”

From top to toe, this record’s gorgeous. Lush and dreamy. I like to think it’s the Kylester’s answer to John Lennon’s ‘God’, but it is, of course, the work of 2004’s main chart sales flava – Scissor Sisters. Who’d have thought Scissor Sisters had it in them?

But I-i-i believe in… me, Yoko and me:

[1] LCD Soundsystem, ‘All My Friends’

LCD Soundsystem, ‘All My Friends’

The single of the millennium – sorry, Scissor Sisters, you had a good innings – is a fantastic achievement from a man at the very peak of his game. I’ve already mentioned this year’s Sound Of Silver, which snaffles the album rosette, but this is the dizzy high point of the set. A sensitive appraisal of a life in motion, ‘All My Friends’ is unsentimental but touching and universal.
 
It’s difficult to pinpoint. To these ears it’s a glorious amalgam of New Order’s ‘Love Vigilantes’ and ‘Run’, Talking Heads’ ‘Once in A Lifetime’ and David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’ – and as wonderful as that suggests, but it’s no copy. It’s a stunning original, a would-be seminal track if it was possible to follow it.
 
To unending layers of piano, bass, guitar and bags of atmosphere, James Murphy sings of running with the pack, but always coming back to what counts – your friends. Aww. But, as I say, it’s not sentimental. It’s resigned, but happy. Wistful and celebratory.
 
You’d think loving this track was the sole preserve of the thirtysomething, but Junior has adored it all year. As ever, she mimes along with the woodpecker piano of the intro, more frenzied as it works itself up, and sings the last word of each line like one of those people who always finish your sentences. Only she does it in a cute way. That’s a deft move.

[16] Kylie Minogue, ‘2 Hearts’

Kylie Minogue, ‘2 Hearts’

Kylie has been at the very frontier of pop ever since the triumphant ‘Spinning Around’ comeback in 2000 – nor was she doing too badly a decade earlier – but has she actually been making many good records? I’ll help you here: no, she hasn’t. ‘Spinning Around’ itself was serviceable but horribly dated, and we’re legally obliged to praise ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’. Add to these the sparkling filter disco of ‘Love At First Sight’ and the dreamy Scissor Sisters collaboration of ‘I Believe In You’, and that’s about it. So expectations were oddly high for the comeback – perhaps it was just nice that there was a comeback at all.
 
It’s an unusual comeback, at least. While sister Dannii may consider shockingly tired Hi-NRG bilge the very apogee of cutting-edge pop, Kylie knows there is another way. ‘2 Hearts’ harks back to glam rock, with some knowing disco dust, and enslaves the world with its “wooo!”s. Not a particularly remarkable song, and a bit empty on first listen, it grows with repeated plays and becomes quite charming. Go on, the Kylester.
 
It goes down well with Junior on this, her second, maybe third listen. She plays her imaginary piano on the TV unit and wheels around, dancing with bubble wrap. We’ve just moved house; we don’t keep a ready supply of bubble wrap in the living room.