By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
?THE SLIDER (1972) ?Though more acoustic and less immediate than Electric Warrior, The Slider is every bit its equal, arguably its superior. Its lumbering boogaloo, mixed with lush strings and overdubs, creates a hauntingly unique masterpiece that seems almost unrehearsed and overproduced at the same time. The lyrics combine glam-slam, juvenile-jivin’, futuristic-speedway poetry with a confessional nakedness that is staggeringly human and real. (“As a child I laughed a lot, yes I did. Now it seems I cry a lot, tell the truth: Don’t you?”) You haven’t felt so put on and told the truth at the same time since you asked your girlfriend about her sexual history — though the effect is thrilling rather than disturbing. The Slider is Bolan and glam rock itself at its most beautiful, sad, swaggering, sexual, funny, hooky and utterly bitchin’, with sensational rockers like “Metal Guru” and “Telegram Sam.” Great cover, too. Got a big hat on.
?TANX (1973) ?Sacrilegious resequencing:?
Tanx is where most fans think the T. Rex thing starts to lose its luster, and maybe they’re right, but quite possibly they are completely wrong. Yes, the record’s a bit too carefully produced and it’s not the unstoppable hit parade the previous two albums were, but, hey, check it out. Unlike Electric Warrior and The Slider —both of which benefited from the inclusion of singles like “Bang a Gong” and “Metal Guru” — none of the singles released around Tanx were actually put on the album. (Which is like releasing Nevermindwithout “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Maybe you were supposed to buy the singles and the album, who knows?) If the singles had been included on the original, my guess is that Tanx would now be considered genius. It’s clear in hindsight, anyway: If you’ve got “20th Century Boy,” whose scorching opening is among the most exciting 19 seconds in rock history, you make that the first track on your new album.
Since all the Tanx-era singles are included here as bonus tracks, I suggest a little sacrilegious rock revisionism: Program your CD player to make Tanx the classic record it should’ve been. Add the singles and B-sides you want, filter out the dross (like “Shock Rock” and “Country Honey”) and leave the great ones (like “Electric Slim and the Factory Hen” and “Highway Knees”). This is a fantastic and meaningful way to spend a day or three eating tater tots and ignoring phone calls from loved ones. Or just use my personal sequence: 19-4-1-2-7-20-16-9-10-11-12-13-14. You can’t tell me that’s not a better record — and I didn’t even use “Solid Gold Easy Action,” and I could’ve.
?ZINC ALLOY AND THE HIDDEN RIDERS OF TOMORROW (1974) ?Okay, things do in fact start to get quite grim here for T. Rex, as the uninspired, Bowie-copying title may suggest. There are still some great lyrics and decent tunes, like “Teenage Dream” and “Explosive Mouth,” but little seems special on Zinc Alloy. As a rule, the songs are boring; the rock is toothless. Yeah the record pretty much blows — it’s probably T. Rex’s worst. On the plus side, the reissue’s bonus tracks include the awesome singles “Truck On (Tyke)” and “The Groover,” the latter of which was, perhaps, the last truly great moment for a truly great band.
?BOLAN’S ZIP GUN (1975) Supposedly recorded during the goriest days of Bolan’s L.A. booze-bag cocaine freakout, Bolan’s Zip Gun starts out all right with a couple of handclap poppers (“Light of Love” and “Solid Baby”) and then quickly deteriorates into a cheap mess of tired-sounding corn mush. At times, the rinky-dink production sounds like an oldies karaoke CD from the 99¢ store, and only “Think Zinc” gives you a punch of that aliveness and struttery that was once T. Rex’s trademark. Still, some of the lyrics are great: “Fleeting angel girl I need your mouth, locked around me like a burning house” sounds stunning even in the middle of a so-so song. (Those aren’t the official lyrics, but it’s totally what he says on the record.) This is the period when Bolan begins to resemble Sigourney Weaver.
?FUTURISTIC DRAGON (1976)?A dark-horse favorite among T. Rexers, Futuristic Dragon is a post-peak high. Though he doesn’t quite rescale the heights of his glory years, Bolan does experience a pretty substantial creative rebirth here, and it’s about bloody time. The songs are almost all catchy and great — tunes like “Chrome Sitar” and “Dreamy Lady” stand among the best of his career — and there’s a welcome sense of energy and glamour in the recordings. “New York City,” a hooky, bouncy, boogying affair, is an album highlight, the only lyrics of which are “Did you ever see a woman coming out of New York City with a frog in her hand? I did, don’t you know, and don’t it show?” repeated over and over again.
?DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD (1977)?This is a pretty darned good record, too — and it might’ve been great if it’d been recorded in a more organic, early T. Rex style. However, Bolan’s own sterile, late-’70s production puts the but in his boogie, so we’ll have to be content with the weird quiet pleasures of the often autobiographical Dandy, the last T. Rex album. The tunes are still rife with fun Bolanisms like “Hey little girl, you move so fine, all I want to do is melt your mind” (from “Crimson Moon”) and “You damaged the soul of my suit” (“The Soul of My Suit”), but largely, the album has the confessional feel of a once-reigning superstar putting his life and career in perspective, as on “Jason B. Sad,” which is not that good of a song, but it’s got cool words:
Jason B. Sad was a lonely lad
His head was a bed for everyone
His clothes were his life ?but his heart was a knife
Inscribed on it was, “Rock & Roll is Cruel.”