The disco-friendliness of New York’s gloriously over-the-top Scissor Sisters and the increasingly electronic nature of their output obscured a simple fact: Beneath their righteous camp, lead singer Jake Shears has always been a traditional and sometimes even serious pop-rock craftsman, as Elton-y sing-alongs like “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” — a 2006 chart-topper nearly everywhere besides the U.S. — have proven.
So, for his first solo album in the wake of Scissor Sisters’ ongoing hiatus, a 2018 autobiography, and a recent starring run in Broadway’s Kinky Boots, Shears moved to New Orleans, wrote himself out of a cataclysmic breakup, and then recorded in Louisville, Kentucky while producer Kevin Ratterman filled studios full of pickers and horn blowers from My Morning Jacket and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The result overflows with the opulence of orchestral Seventies pop — as if ELO and the Bee Gees got together to make a Muppet fantasia of Cajun rock. Billowing ballads like “All for What” retain some melancholy, but mostly there’s willful elation, as if the singer got hell-bent on transcending his sorrows via old-school sonic nirvana. On greasy, brashly defiant anthems like “Sad Song Backwards,” and, indeed, most of Jake Shears, he attained it.