Glam rock classic Electric Warrior celebrates its 50th anniversary soon, which has finally prompted me to listen to a T. Rex album for the first time. I had expected the whimsical dramatics, knowing what I did about Marc Bolan and his impact on music and culture, but the record is far more playful than I had ever imagined. His songwriting is so instinctively excellent, crossing the bridge between romping rock ’n roll and soulful balladry with ease. Making music sounded like a breeze for him, and when you add some vintage Visconti wizardry into the mix, you can’t really go wrong.
I get the impression that Bolan had very few restrictions with Electric Warrior, singing about strange absurdities and compiling fanciful musical arrangements that would be too extravagant for most. That sort of carefree attitude, however real it may be, is a pleasure to behold. Electric Warrior doesn’t give me a whole lot to grasp, but I enjoy every moment of my time with it. There’s much amusement to be had in lines such as ’just like a car, you’re pleasing to behold/I’ll call you Jaguar, if I may be so bold’. More often than not, the album doesn’t take itself too seriously, so why should we?
The entertainment that Electric Warrior provides is infectious, so it’s unsurprising to see its influence on popular music. Multiple moments on the album trigger musical memories for me: the theatrical panache of David Bowie; the swagger and sleaze of Queens of The Stone Age; the sheer virtuoso of modern arena bands such as Coldplay and Muse. Some of these artists have gone on to make music with even higher substance, at least in my view, but there’s a lot of gratitude to be shown towards Electric Warrior. Bolan was a true creative, no doubt about it. A smooth operator who was ahead of his time. What a legacy.
8 out of 10
It had been years since I’d listened to Electric Warrior, and I’d forgotten how slick it was. Given glam rock’s association with excess, garishness, and - worst of all - flared trousers, you’d expect the genre’s founding album to be a bit much. Instead, it’s just right.
Thanks in large part to Tony Visconti’s production, T. Rex serves up rock with a flourish. Centrepiece tracks like “Get It On” and “Cosmic Dancer” indulge in their fair share of lush string and horn arrangements (and horniness, for that matter) but those moments are tempered by a down and dirtiness worthy of Jimi Hendrix or the Stones. In Marc Bolan the band had a frontman every bit as captivating.
As is the glam rock way, Electric Warrior sets a mood then rolls with it a hair too long. By the time “Rip Off” closes the record out I’ve both had a marvelous time and had enough. That’s probably how it has to be, though. You can hardly tell T. Rex to tone it down. Stupid Sexy Bolan.
8 out of 10
I’ve had a great time with Electric Warrior. Years of association with a glam rock scene I don’t much care for — and the inclusion of “Children of the Revolution” on a litany of air guitar/driving songs/real music 4 dads albums — kept me from trying T. Rex out, so props to the 50th anniversary for kickstarting my interest.
Despite being a so-called founding album for glam rock, I’ve been surprised by the lack of bombast on Electric Warrior. In similar fashion to Sabbath’s Paranoid and its ushering in of metal, it’s clear that glam’s seeds would germinate pretty wildly beyond the foundations laid here. Beyond easy comparisons to David Bowie - mostly due to Marc Bolan’s vocals - Electric Warrior gets me thinking about its influence on rock in a more general sense. From the chugging rhythm guitar on “The Motivator” reminding me of Queens of the Stone Age to the bouncing compositions of “Get It On” and “Jeepster” inspiring comparison to The Hives, there’s been plenty here to wake me up to the significance of T. Rex in the decades since Electric Warrior’s release.
The languid and easygoing vein running through the record is weighted wonderfully with the blues-inspired progressions and hard rock-esque jams. Minute to minute it’s difficult to draw out a bum note or lag in the project’s pacing. Nothing about the album blows me away, I’ll admit, but the sheer competence on display in the songwriting, composition, and performances are utterly moreish.
Pointing in the directions of rock branches that hadn’t yet sprouted, and without dipping into the cheese of its most famous progeny, Electric Warrior is a hugely fun and engaging listen that wasn’t at all what I expected.
8 out of 10