Brash, Bawdy Scissor Sisters Slice Into America

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For the last several years, the Scissor Sisters, America's most sparklingly delicious band, has ruled the British charts while largely remaining secret to mainstream audiences in its home country.

But with this week's release of its second album "Ta-Dah" -- and an appearance on the top-rated show "Dancing With the Stars" -- the New York-based glam rock band wants to bring the party back home.

"We make music that speaks to people no matter what age or sex. That's our purpose," said the band's multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter, Scott "Babydaddy" Hoffman.

"We've always said that we're for the downtown kids as much as for the housewives. As [lead vocalist] Jake [Jason Sellards] says, 'A lot of people don't know that we're missing from their lives.'"

What the uninitiated have been missing is the band's infectious dance-pop music and a style that's compared to that of the Bee-Gees, Duran Duran, and Sir Elton John -- who has become the band's mentor, co-writing and playing piano on its current hit single "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'."

Simply put, the Scissor Sisters is a good time.

The band is that song you want to dance to with your hairbrush in front of your mirror. The band is the wedding theme that gets your grandma up from the reception table.

With exuberant, bubbly champagne music and flamboyant, glamorous outfits by Gwen Stefani's designer (usually tossed off at some point in the show by lead singer Jake Shears, who's been known to sing in a jockstrap), the Scissor Sisters stage colorful performances that unabashedly make you move.

Dead Lesbian Reborn in Lower Manhattan

In 2001, the Scissor Sisters was born in a cabaret club on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Initially known by the much cheekier name Dead Lesbian and the Fibrillating Scissor Sisters, the band was formed by the group's primary songwriting duo of Hoffman and Sellards soon after college.

Introduced by a mutual friend who grew up with Hoffman in Kentucky, the newly minted Babydaddy and Jake Shears respected each other's creativity and soon began writing songs and performing together -- Babydaddy on keyboards and bass guitar, and Jake singing.

These early shows featuring their dance tracks have been described by an attendee as similar to "a low-fi Jane Fonda workout set to a beatbox."

Over the course of the following year and a half, the duo added vocalist Ana Matronic (who hosted those performance art/cabaret club nights), guitarist Del Marquis (who met Jake Shears through a friend that he had picked up at the gay bar where he was a go-go dancer) and drummer Paddy Boom (who responded to a classified ad).

With Babydaddy and Jake Shears sharing songwriting duties, the band began recording songs in the front room of Babydaddy's Brooklyn apartment.

In 2003, the Scissors released a disco-style cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," which became a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom.

The next year, Scissor Sisters released its self-titled debut that, with 2.4 million copies sold, went on to become the best-selling album in the United Kingdom that year.

The band's single "Take Your Mama" became one of their most recognizable hits.

The album won the group three Brit Awards (the British version of the Grammy) as well as celebrity fans ranging from Anderson Cooper to Kylie Minogue (whom Babydaddy and Jake Shears later collaborated with).

International audiences liked the group not just for the beat, but also for Jake Shears and Babydaddy's witty, but tragic lyrics that tackle social issues and personal heartbreak.

A Kitschy Extravaganza

The band's concerts are kitschy extravaganzas that tempt even the most cynical naysayers to join the party.

"Jake and Ana have always been performers," Babydaddy said. "It's a reference to what they remember as children, growing up with pop music that was flamboyant. We see a lot of the '80s in what we do."

Although "Ta-Dah" is currently the top album in England and "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" is ruling the singles chart for the third week in a row (beating Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack"), the Sisters has primarily been known in America as a gay band.

This, because with the exception of Ana, who's married, and Paddy Boom, all members of Scissor Sisters are openly gay.

Wal-Mart didn't sell the first album (Jake Shears said it was due to "coarse" lyrics and song titles) but with recent live performances at festivals like Coachella and a TV appearance on "Late Night With Conan O'Brian," the band has begun to broaden its base.

This week, popular music blogger Scott "Stereogum" Stereogum posted: "I'm surprised how much I'm blogging about the Scissor Sisters. Especially because I once deemed them 'not so special' on this very blog. Maybe I didn't listen to the last album enough, or maybe their live show did the convincing, but this band's songs rise above the novelty."

According to Babydaddy, "Ta-Dah" is a bit more rock 'n' roll than the Sisters' self-titled 2004 debut.

"America's really obsessed with labels," he said. "We hear that we're a disco band, a '70s retro band. There's an element of us looking to the past. There's an element of dance music. Still, all in all, the format is pop."

A new hurdle in tackling the U.S. market may have arisen when Jake Shears recently dove the band headfirst into hot water.

Currently, "Ta-Dah" is not being carried in 1,100 record stores, including FYE, Sam Goody, Coconuts, Strawberries and Specs, because of comments that Jake Shears made at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention last month.

After visiting an FYE store and seeing a CD for almost $20, Jake Shears publicly complained that the store's prices were too high.

FYE demanded an apology, which so far, Jake Shears has refused to give.

No apology, no "Ta-Dah" at these stores, although it will be available almost anywhere else in the country, including, this time around, at Wal-Mart.

With this new album, the band is following a strategy that was successful in England during the first go-around.

Initially, British TV shows, not pop radio, supported the Scissor Sisters.

Once viewers saw the band, the album started selling itself. It's a formula the band wants to repeat starting with tonight's performance on "Dancing With the Stars."

Recently, band members were asked to perform in front of Prince Charles.

"It's an honor," Babydaddy said, "but I don't know if we're going to be able to do it."

Asked whether President Bush might extend the same honor, he says he doesn't know, but the songs "might make him dance."

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