If you wait long enough, it's alleged, eventually everything comes back into fashion. The proviso being, of course, that it was once in fashion. Few, though, would have dreamt that this pop-culture law might apply to that most irredeemable icon of kitsch, Elton John yet such appears to be the case, if one is to take seriously the claims being made for Scissor Sisters, the latest hotly tipped band to emerge from New York's bubbling cauldron of rehashed 1970s values. Because these days, not even Elton sounds as much like Elton as they do.
It's uncanny. The first time I heard the opening tracks, "Laura" and "Take Your Mama", I thought the wrong album had been sent and I was listening to some old Elton outtake, so inflection-perfect was the delivery of the front man, Jake Spears. The catchy melodies and classy arrangements seem to have been designed to prompt memories of songs such as "Crocodile Rock" and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", as do aristo-trash lines such as "It's so hard to see streets on a country road/ When your glasses are in the garbage/ And your Continental's just been towed". This isn't just a case of tribute-band karaoke or satiric parody; it's something far more obsessional, an entire re-creation of the sound and style of another artist for purposes other than comedy. And how very weird it is to hear Americans again copying a British copy of American mannerisms rather like all those mop-topped garage bands that sprang up across the States in the 1960s, or the punk groups inspired by the Pistols and The Clash.
To give them their due, the Scissor Sisters aren't slavishly dedicated just to Elton, though all their influences come from that era: the brash, glam attitude; the pumping piano; the hustling disco beats; the falsetto harmonies; and the quaintly decadent posturing of songs such as the voyeurist plea "Lovers in the Backseat" and gender-confusion anthem "Tits on the Radio". The sole cover, "Comfortably Numb", sums up their approach perfectly: this is Pink Floyd as produced by Giorgio Moroder and sung by The Bee Gees, with shrill high-register disco vocals over relentlessly cycling synthesiser. But what, one wonders, does it have to do with mental illness and medication?
The tarty disco number "Filthy/Gorgeous" is probably closer to their core beliefs, with its assertion that "I'm a classy honey kissy huggy lovey dovey ghetto princess/ Cuz you're filthy/ Oooh and I'm gorgeous." Oooh, and I'm bored, ultimately, with the tired old drag-queen, fag-hag notions of glamour and outrage at the heart of Scissor Sisters' schtick, which would struggle to shock even the Waltons' granny, quite frankly. There's also something a little desperate about their yearning for celebrity in "It Can't Come Quickly Enough", about waiting for one's moment, then missing it as it passes. Gracious has it been 15 minutes already?