Wednesday, September 28, 2011

40. T. Rex, "Ballrooms of Mars" (1972)


I know Marc Bolan almost surely qualifies as superstar to most, at least those of a certain age, but somehow I get the feeling he's been overlooked in the long decades since his death in 1977, by which point that star was certainly fading anyway. That's probably on me, coming rather late to the best of T. Rex, which to me are the matching pair of albums from the early '70s, Electric Warrior and The Slider. No one else sounds like this. They are studies in smoldering understatement, cool bravado, tempered joy, and a hedonism restrained only by unknown laws of comportment, strictly enforced, all of it burnished to a fine buff. "Ballrooms of Mars" comes from The Slider, which I like a little better—but only because it's the one I've ended up playing the most frequently—and it's a nearly perfect example of the things that Bolan could do so well. (I hasten to add that if you like this at all you shouldn't waste another minute about getting either or both of the albums. They are fine.) I particularly like how everything about it is so casually deliberate, from the studied name-dropping (Bob Dylan, Alan Freed, John Lennon) to the science-fiction setting implied in its name to the various fashion inventories to the hoary old call to "Rock!" Everything is as cool as can be even as it manages to build itself up to a colossal head of steam. By the time Bolan commands us to "Rock!" and sends the tune sprawling into nether regions of the solar system, tumbling and spinning slo-mo in a place absent all gravity—well, I really don't see how it's possible for anyone to do anything but exactly that.

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