The sax is back

With artists from Lady Gaga to Deerhunter currently sneaking in sax sounds, David Renshaw finds the instrument's curves are in all the right places

While Odd Future, Lisa Simpson, Lady Gaga and Bill Clinton may seem like a bizarre sort of supergroup, this year has seen the saxophone join them all together in a comeback nobody can claim they saw coming. Regularly seen alongside oversized mobile phones and wine bars as a comedy throwback to the 1980s, hearing the saxophone all over new music, when it had seemed settled in a world of soft-porn balladry, is very strange indeed.

Top blog Pinglewood recently compiled the best of the revival on its Sax Degrees Of Separation podcast. Featuring some of the saxiest new bands around, it included remixes of Lykke Li (by Dave Sitek) and Tyler, The Creator (by James Pants) alongside Glasser, Lil B, Deerhunter, Iron & Wine and XL's latest signing Jai Paul. Crossing genres from lo-fi slacker rock to Greek chillwave, it felt exciting and fresh at the same time as throwing you back into the past in a disorientating timewarp reminiscent of Gold-era Spandau Ballet.

As ever, Lady Gaga is doing her part for the revival by dressing it up in leather and taking it out dancing. Born This Way brings back the sax in a way only someone who calls a song Government Hooker can. So overblown is the E Street Band's Clarence Clemons's sax sound on The Edge Of Glory and Hair that it led Twitter user @JMichaelStacy to suggest that "the 'G' in Kenny's name stood for Gaga". Strangely, her recent headline set at Radio 1's Big Weekend in Carlisle came complete with scat singing over freeform horn solos. At times, it was only the lack of a sideways glance and sleazy catchphrase from John Thomson that distinguished it from an actual Fast Show sketch.

The adventures in sax continue on Berlin-via-Bolton performer Janine Rostron AKA Planningtorock's latest album W, which uses the instrument among its drones as an atonal accompaniment to its themes of androgyny and body modification. Finding what is often regarded as a comedy sound in such a serious piece of work takes some getting used to, so it helps that Patrick Wolf is also joining in. Never quite aware of his own silliness, Patrick's recent video for The City sees his saxophonist dancing around, a mere arched back away from the kind of classic "instrument in air" poses that haven't been seen since George Michael wheeled out Careless Whisper on Top Of The Pops in 1984.

While we're on the topic of Careless Whisper, the most entertaining appearance of saxophone this year comes via a YouTube clip from mullet-haired "sexy sax man" Sergio Flores. During the three-minute video, which quickly went viral, Sergio invades classrooms, restaurants and even a football field to play along to a boombox recording of the track. Try to make a distinction between that and the Patrick Wolf single. It's not as far removed as you might think.

Where next, though? A Jamie xx remix of John Coltrane would be huge, while Kings Of Leon could revitalise their biggest hit, Sex On Fire, with the change of just one letter. Let's all just cross our fingers and pray that doesn't catch wind of it any time soon.

David Renshaw

The GuardianTramp

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