There are good reasons to hate Scissor Sisters right now. The fact that they are so disgustingly fashionable. The way the London media has whipped itself into a froth out of all proportion to their modest commercial success. The smug Pink Floyd-goes-disco version of "Comfortably Numb". Yes, there are a lot of reasons to hate Scissor Sisters. But this brilliant debut is not one of them.
From the pounding piano that opens the album to the melancholy tinklings that see it out, this is a record that is deeply in love, with music and with life. If the former fact can be a problem - when the band fall into pastiche of the seventies sounds they so clearly adore - the second fact redeems it utterly.
So, if "Take Your Mama Out" sounds uncannily like Elton John in his early seventies pomp, its beautiful melody and palpable sincerity makes you feel churlish for even noticing. As is typical with Jake Shears' songwriting, here he takes a traditional love song and gives it a gentle twist. It's difficult to imagine any artist short of Morrissey who might suggest mending a broken heart by turning to your mother, and he would never suggest taking her out on the town to get blitzed on cheap champagne.
And while it's true that "Lovers In The Backseat" has the deadpan tones and buzzing synths of a lost Human League classic, the gorgeous line 'would you like a cigarette, or my hand upon your shoulder' lifts it into a tender place Human League could never touch. It's clear that Shears' arch persona hides an all too gentle heart.
The disco numbers are less loveable, and less accomplished. As well as the threadbare joke of "Comfortably Numb", there is the frankly ugly "Tits On The Radio". It's plodding bass and shrill falsettos are not only amateurish but, shockingly for Scissor Sisters, remarkably uncatchy. 'Filthy/gorgeous' is far superior, with its propulsive rhythm and playful melodies suggesting the Bee Gees with brains and sex appeal.
But where the record truly glitters is in the three songs
where it transcends its influences. First single "Laura" is a thrilling pop song, stuffed with more brilliant melodies and riveting shifts in tempo than the average pub jukebox. Its plea for love closes with a line which manages to be cruel, funny and desperately sad - "this will be the last time that I do your hair."
"It Can't Come Quickly Enough" is so different it could be another band, built on gently pulsing techno and a world weary vocal that should come from a man twenty years older than Shears. Even that is left in the shade by the closing "Return To Oz", a heart-shattering elegy to lost friendship and the chaos of crystal meth addiction - "we've left the world with smiles, and clenching jaws". It's unlikely there'll be a more beautiful or tender song written this year.
"Scissor Sisters" is the sound of a band beginning to find its own voice. If they survive the hype long enough to find it they will surely astonish us all.