Jake Shears

Jake Shears

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Arriving just a few months after his memoir, Boys Keep Swinging, Jake Shears' self-titled solo debut album paints a picture of his post-Scissor Sisters life that's just as vivid as his book's stories of New York's subversive nightlife and queer culture in the 2000s. Jake Shears isn't just a continuation of that band's music, however. After a devastating 2015 breakup with director Chris Moukarbel, Shears moved to New Orleans, where Allen Toussaint's memorial service provided the catalyst for his creative rebirth. The Big Easy's influence on Jake Shears is unmistakable: the louche, winking "Big Bushy Mustache" borrows a bit of Dr. John's gritty keyboards, while the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Sturgill Simpson's horn section bring the city's rousing brass to songs such as "The Bruiser," a mournful and boisterous standout that could be a New Orleans funeral for Shears' former life. Elsewhere, he doubles down on the '70s rock and pop worship that balanced Scissor Sisters' dancefloor leanings. Along with touching on his well-known favorites -- Elton John, Bee Gees, Queen -- he evokes ELO's heartfelt bombast on "Everything I'll Ever Need." "Good Friends" feels like a rollicking mashup of Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With," Joe Cocker's "Feelin' Alright," and David Bowie's "Young Americans" presented as a revue, which makes sense considering the stage work Shears did between his band's hiatus and this album (he also worked with Christian Hebel and Lance Horne on string and brass arrangements to give Jake Shears extra theatrical dazzle). When Shears does return to his dance roots, they're presented as desperate escapism, whether it's the prowling disco-funk of "S.O.B.," "Creep City"'s glam-tinged exploits, or "Clothes Off," a bleak yet bouncy ode to getting over someone by getting under someone else. As with Scissor Sisters, on his own Shears is still a master of pairing downcast lyrics with upbeat music. "Don't Feel Like Dancin'" remains one of the most hip-shaking songs about not wanting to move, and "Sad Song Backwards" could be its country cousin, pairing a twangy arrangement with lyrics about shock therapy and Prozac with deceptively catchy results. Even when he reveals more of his sadness, it's still in vibrant Technicolor; as he opens up on the finale, "Mississippi Delta (I'm Your Man)," he describes himself as a "necromancer with perfect glowing skin." As befits a self-titled album, all the moves Shears makes -- both familiar and new -- feel true to him. Funny, flashy, and not so secretly recovering from heartbreak, Jake Shears is one of the tightest sets of music he's made.

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