Time hasn’t been especially kind to the T. Rex back cat. Not as vicious as a certain South London tree – to this day plastered in Bolan tributes as if a craft project for a gaggle of particularly mawkish children – but any standing as some kind of serious or significant rock act hasn’t been enhanced by the nostalgia racket, by records pillaged by the advertising industry, by glam rock served with a snigger if the names Bowie or Eno don’t appear somewhere in the credits.
Even in the mid-seventies, the Bolan career path wasn’t seen as music integrity personified. This is what can happen should you push the reboot button – the wispy, hippy flowered-up folk of Tyrannosaurus Rex suddenly becoming something commercial and template-driven, not afraid to pander to the teeny-bopp shilling.
All this suggests that listening to an album such as Electric Warrior is framed by preconception. The instrumental motifs, the single-paced dynamic, sprayed-on glitter lyrics that are never going to be confused with Thomas Pychon. And there are some incredibly awkward words on display (the original vinyl has the lyrics printed on the back cover should you be doubting your ears). I danced myself right out the womb. Dragon head, machine of lead. I love the way you walk, don’t you know you’re a cool motivator. It’s hardly Philip Larkin in mascara.
And yet there’s a discernible, enterprising warmth to this record. A giddy quality, slick and slyly agreeable. It’s apparent in opening tune ‘Mambo Sun’, with its coy sense of movement, falsetto backing, and an interplay between bass and guitar tracks that’s a great deal more refined than given credit for. It’s apparent on ‘Get It On’; the type of song whose motive is obvious, but where the execution slots neatly into the experience.
And then there’s ‘Jeepster’; below the words, and also my personal favourite on the album. It’s a confident slice of music where the emphasis lies upon the sultry – actually quite the difficult trick when glam rock is concerned. There’s a degree of bite to this – perhaps an effect greater than the list of ingredients imply.
Rolling Stone magazine apparently has Electric Warrior at #160 on its list of greatest albums; in my opinion that’s over-egging the pudding somewhat, yet despite the obvious elements of detraction that Marc Bolan wore as eagerly as his feather boa, this remains an enjoyable listen – even without eye-liner.
T. Rex / Jeepster