REVIEW: Marc Bolan & T-Rex – Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (1974)
Dan takes a look back on Bolan’s classic album from 1974.
Artist: Marc Bolan & T-Rex
Album: Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow
Welcome to the criminally underrated world of Marc Bolan and T-Rex, yawningly referred to by most music writers with the same tired clichÃ©s of ‘Pixie’, ‘Wizard’ or ‘Elf’. Paleeease! Marc is as likely to hoard lucky charms as Sun-Ra is to own a real spaceship. Itâ€™s truly grating when writers resort to turning great artists into caricatures and it diverts the attention away from his greatest strength, the music. So lets forgot the Middle Earth references (yes I admit Marc had a penchant) and concentrate on his true legacy. Because for a couple of years in the early 70’s this guy was as big as they came, and recording music that influenced the future careers of many, including Bowie, Roxy Music, Talking Heads and Alice Cooper. Indeed his influences can be heard in every decade since. To simplify his style down to simply glam is also an insult and I wish to dispel that little favourite as well. OK. That having been exercised from my devilish quill, it is time to review my favourite T-Rex album, and NO itâ€™s not Electric Warrior or The Slider. I fumbled late and obscurely upon Bolan’s work, first tripping over Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust in a freaked out state of mind I didnâ€™t notice The Slider pulsating like a black hole until too late. Because in my rush to miss stepping in its murky depths my left foot thought it was my right foot and vice versa, consequently I fall face first into Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow. My very first T-Rex album!
The cover should have been enough for me to pick myself up, dust myself off and start listening to Red Hot Chilli Peppers again (yeah right!). Now check this out and tell me you donâ€™t see a similarity.
Inspiration Wayne? I would go so far as to say this could make the perfect soundtrack. Either way itâ€™s his most bizarre cover and happily the content is equally as peculiar. The general feeling on this album is that it is not his best work, that stronger albums had preceded this and that his appetites and his ego were taking their toll. For my mind it entirely depends on how you come about an artist and an album. I had no benchmark other than the obvious hits and was therefore in the enviable position of hearing this album unfettered of any prejudices.
‘Venus Loon’ crashes in like a brick thrown through glass. Nothing thrills and excites more than crunchy power chords and that famous low “Yeah” screamed out with echo set to 11, a trademark that became a standard of 70’s glam sound. Thatâ€™s just the first 7 seconds! 10 seconds in he wastes no time stuffing around like todayâ€™s copycat bands (Iâ€™m looking at you Franz Ferdinand). This is frenetic, joyful abandonment. Enhanced to the T-Rex sound is the Cosmic Choir, a mostly female led chorus which moved from backup to meeting Marc on his turf, out front and gorgeously loud. These guys played a major role in the sound of this and the next album. Coming in just on 3 minutes and ending with Bolan’s orgasmic panting, this is a killer track…. and I’m spent, sorry love! ‘Sound Pit’ is more of the same, which is a good thing, I think I got my second wind. ‘Explosive Mouth’ is freaked out blues with a sexually charged chorus “And I want to lay my lips on your explosive mouth”. C’mon baby give me a break, how about a cup of tea? ‘Galaxy’ is the perfect car tape mix for the space fighter pilot in a distant war hundreds of years from now. “Change’ is Jim Morrison and John Lennon’s love child conceived on Pink Floyd records. ‘Teenage Dream’ would have made a great addition to the Kinks ‘Schoolboys in Disgrace’ album. It also just occurred to me how similar Rocky Horror Picture show is to this album, it is uncanny, and I canâ€™t believe I have never noticed that before. Things get a little hung-over with ‘You’ve Got to Jive to Stay Alive’, the Spanish Midnight second half is a gorgeous contrast to the first half’s frenetic rock. ‘Interstellar Soul’ falters as does ‘Painless Persuasion’ while ‘The Avengers’ is a catchy funk driven gem with a killer Bolan solo and double bass ala Good Vibrations. This leads to my all time favourite T-Rex song ever. It captures in a few minutes the full glory of all that is good and freaked out and just plain creepy about this genius. ‘The Leopards Featuring Gardenia and the Mighty Slug’. It is a waste of time to describe this song and to be honest I have absolutely no idea what the hell itâ€™s about, I just know I love it. “Cycle Michael grotesque school desk in my brain”. Umm, OK.
Follow up album Zip-Gun would follow the same track, albeit a bit poppier and was my second introduction to the man. I love it almost equally if not for the fact that Zinc was where I popped my Rex cherry. Strangely, upon getting to the two biggest albums I was not nearly as excited by them as I was these two. My hope is that one day I will meet my kindred spirit who will gush with the same Rextacy over these albums as I do. Oh to dream.
Before you swagger off to HMV to get your oh-so-cool Devandra Banhart CD that GQ reviewed alongside the new Palm Pilot and Calvin Klein’s latest polo shirt range, remember that new is not necessarily new, and old is not necessarily old.
Solid baby! Rating: 8/10
- 01. Venus Loon
02. Sound Pit
03. Explosive Mouth
06. Nameless Wildness
07. Teenage Dream
08. Liquid Gang
09. Carlisle Smith & the Old One
10. You’ve Got to Jive to Stay Alive
11. Interstellar Soul
12 Painless Persuasion
13. The Avengers (Superbad)
14 The Leopards Featuring Gardenia and the Mighty Slug
- Franz Ferdinand
- Marc Bolan
- Ziggy Stardust