Jake Shears’ self-titled debut solo album is a fun disco romp, à la his original group, Scissor Sisters. Recorded in Louisville, Kentucky, the place where he began his music career, and New Orleans, his place of solace after a recent heartbreak, Shears establishes his own pop style, without distancing himself too much from his much beloved musical roots.
On his self-described “breakup album,” Shears attempts to capture the sounds of classic country and rock without ever straying too far from his pop comfort zone. With Justin Timberlake’s recent miss on his “back to his roots” album, it feels like a thoughtful approach to an oft-problematic move. Shears smartly calls in members My Morning Jacket and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to add the bona fides he’s not able to provide on his own.
“Creep City” is the slinky first single, released in 2017, a preview of the funk to come and a revisiting of Shears’ electroclash beginnings. Its kitschy thump is a great distillation of all the tricks Shears does best, and his theatrical vocals are never lost in the big, orchestral sound.
Bombastic, orchestral opening leads into the honky tonk “Good Friends.” On this track, and most of the subsequent tracks, Shears emits an “Elton John on The Muppet Show” kind of color. It’s refreshing and fun, blissfully unique in its drama. Big bawdy tracks like “Big Bushy Mustache” play around with a campy machismo factor. “S.O.B.,” an acronym for “sex on the brain,” has similarly cheeky lyrics, a high energy disco affair that has Shears going back into full “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” mode.
The album is full of instances of Shears trying on a new costume, looking sharp in most of them. “All For What” is dreamy surf pop, slightly out of sync, but not unwelcome. “Everything I’ll Ever Need” is a heartsick ballad, Shears selling himself on the idea of leaving an ungratifying relationship. He swoons “I pronounce the breaking of the spell,” setting himself free from the regret.
Though it feels like Shears could easily produce a fun dance album out of thin air, the attention to detail and authenticity on his debut is impressive. He doesn’t sleepwalk through the album, penning personal lyrics with a sly sense of humor. And while the sound of Scissor Sisters is only as great as the sum of the group’s parts, Shears does remarkably well flying solo.
Notable Tracks: “Big Bushy Mustache” | “Everything I’ll Ever Need” | “Creep City”