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Steve reviews T.Rex by T.Rex Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 February 2003

Steve has cited Marc Bolan as an influence many times, and in this long review, we see exactly what Steve meant.  This was taken from the internet archives of newspapertaxi.net: http://web.archive.org/web/20030730062105/www.newspapertaxi.net/pages/ntReview.asp?reviewID=81

 

The first time it occurred to me that delicate-ness could be a powerful ingredient in rock music; this is one of the most special rock records I know. In one sense a transitional record, but one where it all became clear for one dizzying moment and he ?stole a scene from Icarus and sussed?

In a glorious hodgepodge of styles; part middle earth, part electric, Elizabethan, part Chuck Berry and part a genius of his own, Marc Bolan is in metamorphosis from other worldly fey troubadour to otherworldly fey rock star.

AND (according to me!) at this point in the journey it all came into focus, a bewitching synthesis of the caterpillar and the butterfly, like watching him become himself.

Bolan?s warbling still wobbled like a lamb bleating but the lyrics had sharpened their edge from the C.S. Lewis days of fauns and unicorns (though elves and elf kings and wizards all make appearances but in rock and roll terms!?) and Bolan has discovered in himself a budding narcissism as well as a new precocious sexuality which gives the whole thing a strange out-of-time-ness, making much of this music almost impossible to categorize for the neophyte. (In other words a lot of my 16-year-old friends didn?t know what the fuck this racket was)

But I loved it. I devoured it. I studied it. The words, the sounds, the cover, the lyrics, the credits, the record label. (EMI Orange)

It was the first record I had ever fallen completely in love with (like you do with another person.) and I quoted, scribbled and appropriated all the words on this record and I tried to figure out the chords and lacking Bolan?s curly hair I tried to affect a Mickey Finn look, (He was the dude on the cover with Bolan, with the white make-up and suitable medieval ambience, he was however, the bongo player.)

Every song on this album will transport you off to that place in your head where make-up weaving satyrs cruise the ultra-babes-in-the-woods in Mustangs while U.F.O.?s and dinosaurs bear down upon the love child populace.

?Summer Deep? is simply one of the most beautiful and romantic things I?ve ever heard and I say that still after all these years. The way Bolan pronounced ?zeeebra? instead of the English ?zedbra? sent me into wondrous reveries and I too wanted to be in those hills with summer and my coat of grapes. To me these songs were spells, they were portals out of Canberra 1970 and into a Technicolor anciently Greek souped up modern panorama with an accompaniment of bongos, primitively spare throbbing bass and delicate electric guitar versus distorted all het up electric guitar and always lots of beautiful acoustics.

Occasionally punctuated by Tony Visconti?s lovely string arrangements, this is a minimalist record although not for the sake of it. Bolan was slashing away the labyrinthine mythology of his last incarnation and was trying out the direct approach. On ?Is It Love? this merely turned into asking over and over ?is it Love that makes us rock??(Which actually, to a 16 year old me seemed a perfectly relevant question.)

This was accompanied by Bolan?s spare but rock and rolling rhythm guitar playing which was primitive, sexual yet at times strange and exotic, A weird, wonderful mixture of tribal pulsing bongos and Bolan?s heavily accented (but what accent was it supposed to be? my friends variously guessed German, Middle English and Irish but I guess it was some kind of very affected mock-cockney only all the vowels had elongated and melted hence rending the words unintelligible without a lyric sheet) sibilant voice.

The album begins and ends with the same song, ?Children Of Rarn? which washes in on a wave of ?Pixie phone? or Stylophone? or whatever that archaic sound is, before we start to rock.

Jewel is one of Bolan?s many comparison songs in which he compares his ?little babe? with sleek and strange combinations of things. The rhythm guitar punctuates youthfully and shyly yet slyly rampant before collapsing in a sheet of unravelling feedback.

In ?The Visit? Bolan comes into contact with something alien in which ?a shape that was golden and crimson extended a claw to my frame? but at the end of each verse and its description of the encounter Bolan bleats pitifully ?Truly I do love you? as if the girl will never now see him again. Or is it that he repeats this mantra so as to focus on his ?babe? and thus endure the overwhelming force of the visitors?

The songs are short and often end abruptly on an unforeseen chord or change of mood.

On ?Seagull Woman? Bolan creates a most perfect, simple, quietly throbbing, song over which he lays down one of the most poignant solos ever to emerge from a gently weeping yet rocking guitar.

On ?Suneye? Bolan is again seemingly desperate to assure his ?babe?, love you, oh girl, I do love you? which must sound so crushingly ordinary on this page in black and white but coming from Bolan in his foppish vibrato and in context with his lush minor acoustic it sets up a list of Bolan?s protagonists from the abandoned ?Children Of Rarn? suite/story and giving each his main characteristic or power.

?Lithon the Black, the Rider of Stars?

?Swan King the Elf Lord the eater of souls? etc which came across to me as Shakespearean (Midsummer Night or Tempest-ish) rather than simply silly.

On ?The Wizard? Bolan (re-) does an old song which tells the semi-autographical (yeah,sure!) story of Bolan?s meeting and studying under a real life Parisian wizard, before halfway through turning into a hobbit?s idea of what a ?free-form freak out? might sound like; Bolan?s shrieks, lisp and undergoes meltdown while a chamber string group churns and bops.

Elsewhere, Bolan invokes some Celtic past with ?Beltane Walk? and gets coyly Beatle-y on the descending cellos and fairytaleish?Root Of Star?

His next album would be the mega-success

?Electric Warrior? where he makes good on all the innovations first heard here. But in the process he lost much of the delicate-ness. Two albums later on, on the depressing vapid pathetic ?Tanx? he was so far away from this records spirit and inspiration, it was almost someone else, altogether; but in 1970 Bolan?s painful demise was impossible to imagine ands this record celebrated youth, love and romance with words and music that are deliriously close to some idiot-savant muse rudely plucked from Arcadia and sat down in the 20th century and for a fleeting point in time, he reconciled it all perfectly.

Hard to find but worth the search.

Last Updated ( Friday, 25 November 2005 )
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