REVIEW: Jake Shears – “Jake Shears”

Jake Shears
Jake Shears
Freida Jean Records

Since Scissor Sisters split up indefinitely in 2012, there has been something missing in the music world. Some odd combination of over-the-top attitude while somehow being vulnerable and simultaneously mixing honky tonk, pop, and good old fashion classic rock and roll. Now, 6 years later, after a pilgrimage to New Orleans their lead singer Jake Shears is back with a solo album. Spoiler alert: it’s fucking fantastic.

Jake Shears’ new self-titled record is a risk-taking masterpiece. The risk here is in the production and the performance of it all. Jake, in his pursuit of real music in New Orleans somehow connected with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, members of My Morning Jacket, and producer Kevin Ratterman. What came out of this connection is a pop album recorded by rock musicians and a risk-taking pirate producer at La La Land here in Louisville. The results are somewhere between Justin Timberlake, Elton John, and the latest Jim James album.

There really is nothing like this album right now. Take the standout track “Big Bushy Mustache” for example. This song is the epitome of a catchy pop jam, but the recording is deceptively heavy. A song like this in 2018 always has fake drum sounds, but not here. We get HEAVY drums recorded live, and grimey guitar tones. As exciting as that is, the lyrics in this song are ridiculous and amazing. For example, “I want a big bushy mustache and a silky carpet with the drapes to match / I’d grow one if my girlfriend let me but she says they’re trash,” is probably the best lyric of the decade.

Where “Big Bushy Mustache” is a rock banger, “S.O.B.” is a standout that feels like some of the great funk rock jams of the 80’s from artists like Morris Day or even George Michael. It’s a straightforward dance-worthy track about having “sex on the brain,” how could you go wrong? While this song seems like a simple concept, there hasn’t been anything like this since Scissor Sisters split up, and the world needs more rock music that makes you smile.

It’s not all straightforward pop-rock on this album however. “Sad Song Backwards” is a honky tonk track featuring a New Orleans style horn section, all through the lens of a pop music icon. Then there is the track “All For What” that is almost in the vein of a Father John Misty indie rock tune. All the while, and through all these different approaches to songwriting, “Jake Shears” never loses its vision of being a “real” pop album. This is the style of pop that Elton John was rocking crowds with in the 70’s, it can’t be made if all you own is a laptop.

Listen below: