New Album – ‘Jake Shears’ by Jake Shears

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Jake Shears has been a rocket-charged presence in popular music for (amazingly) more than 15 years now. The Scissor Sisters co-founder has released four albums with New York’s premiere nu-disco electro-clash beauties, and starred on Broadway in the adaptation of Kinky Boots. Last week, on August 10th, Shears kept the tempo high with the release of his first solo album – a self-titled, ‘cocky’ (in Shears’ own words) romp through a dark carnival wonderland of glitter and shock. A decade and a half in, Shears still knows how to provoke, and it’s all on display here.

Jake Shears (the album) is already winning hearts and turning heads. Metacritic has a rating for it of 78 on a scale of 100 points, and the album has garnered reviews ranging from generally positive to glowingly rave. One of the reasons for this might be the striking stylistic step that Shears has taken away from Scissor Sisters’ neon party music, which pushes edges whilst keeping pop squarely to the fore – dedicated servants of a party that never ends. By contrast, Shears solo is a weirder, broader, spikier proposition altogether: rockier and more direct, dirtier and cleaner all at once.

Jake Shears shows Shears as someone who is, at heart, a traditional musician with a penchant for creating magic from pop-rock fusion. In the wake of Scissor Sisters’ ever-growing hiatus, Shears has done fans of the band justice by releasing this album: while the sound is distinctive, the songs are as infectious, hard to stop listening to, and loop-worthy as anything he’s done as part of a band. Jake keeps the best elements of his band’s sound intact, but pushes into more audacious territory with a more raw live feel.

Jake Shears succeeds in bringing back some of the best memories of 70s rock, sprinkled with the melancholy of recent breakup, and the kind of energy you get by recording tracks live as much as possible. “Good Friends” is a wistful number with many layers, some of which remind you of Bowie’s “Modern Love.” “Sad Song Backwards” is just what its name suggests; it’s what a sad song would be if you turned it over. The track is catchy, especially at the chorus portions, though the lyrics are morose and haunting.

It’s in “Mississippi Delta (I’m Your Man),” the final number, where Shears shakes off all vestiges of other influences and comes across as unapologetically himself. To quote his own description of himself, as the lyrics in the finale go, he’s a “necromancer with perfect glowing skin.” Ultimately, whatever Shears does or doesn’t accomplish in his debut, he does one thing right for an eponymous record; he lets his own honesty shine through the nostalgia that this album sparks off in the listener. And that, more than anything, shows how promising his next records could be. It’s a start, and it’s a good one; Shears hasn’t lost his capacity to bring drama to the dance floor and show it the time of its life. From here, the future looks pretty good.

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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