As previously discussed herein, the spirit of the 1970s Glam movement is afoot again in the culture. Above all, the chief sign of its resurgence is a slew of T. Rex reissues from Rhino Records.
Boulevard, of Athens, GA, is a glam/pop-rock band that draws comparisons to Franz Ferdinand, David Bowie and Roxy Music. Vice & Daring (www.cdbaby.com/cd/boulevard2; Rating: ***), Boulevard's new EP, sees the band effectively blending glam, new wave and Britpop. (The group was at Tremont March 25.) "So Electric" bangs the gong very well, complete with upbeat, sugary harmonies. Prior tunes such as "Octane Lovers" make plain that Boulevard internalized the power pop palette of its Dixie-bred forebears in Big Star. What's fascinating about such acts emerging from the Southeast is that they'd have had their asses kicked by Southern rock heads back in the day. Certainly, one must recollect the failure of Capricorn glam outfit White Witch and the inhospitality of classic rock to sexually ambivalent artists such as Big Star's tortured genius Chris Bell.
While the aforementioned Bowie has retroactively become the poster boy for glam, there was a time at the turn-of-the-1970s when T. Rex front man Marc Bolan reigned supreme, as the glitter paean Velvet Goldmine (1998) inferred. Bolan was a seminal conduit between late-1960s psych-rock and incipient glam, serving as an important influence for Bowie and working with celebrated producer Tony Visconti as well. Among the plethora of T. Rex reissues on offer from Rhino, the best includes 1972's The Slider (Rating: ****), Futuristic Dragon from 1976 (Rating: ***) and -- most suitable for the turned on but casual fan -- The T. Rex Wax Co. Singles A's and B's, 1972-77 (Rating: *** 1/2).
If the iPod Shuffle has not completely undermined the rock snobbery prerequisite to fanning the flames of the T. Rexstacy altar, Marc Bolan is largely remembered as a slightly fey guy in satins with a 'fro and glitter cheeks. The march of time has reduced him to the fuzzy, short, sharp impact of the enduring and much-covered hit "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" (remember that Power Station version?). But Bolan's gifts are displayed to great advantage on The Slider; songs like "Metal Guru" and "Telegram Sam" are a revelation that only a few cups of cloud cuckooland tea separate T. Rex from cock rockers Led Zeppelin, that both bands were the era's preeminent purveyors of an amalgam of blues rock and English folk.
Folk forget that T. Rex was initially taken up by the British Invasion elite, particularly Ringo Starr (who directed the group's concert film, Born To Boogie, under Apple's aegis), and it's clear from reissued footage that -- fairy-friendly aside -- Bolan was a badass on guitar of the Chuck Berry school. And really, where would Devendra Banhart and his freak-folkies be without the twin pillars of Bolan and Donovan to draw from? Why, they'd likely be stuck with the embarrassing hair-metal paradigm of onetime Robert Plant carbon copy David Coverdale, given the reissue treatment on Whitesnake's The Definitive Collection (Geffen; Rating: * 1/2).
Of course, 1980s rock wasn't a complete wasteland -- thanks to one diminutive, Napoleonic artist from Minnesota obsessed with purple and booty. Long before Dave Chappelle eulogized the Purple Rain zeitgeist with a memorable skit featuring a b-ball game in stilettos, Prince Rogers Nelson was as important a bridge between the Boomer and post-rock eras as Bolan had been a decade before. Prince's androgyny and Anglophilia mark him as a raced son of glitter-glam and his space-age pimp aesthetic remains a focal point to this day. But the joys of Ultimate Prince (Warner Bros.; Rating: ***) come from his omnivorous and masterful meta readings of the entirety of postwar music. FT Marinetti's futurism movement got nothing on His Royal Badness, in terms of the latter's approach to noise. These two discs of singles effectively run the gamut of rock history: "Controversy" (electro, funk), "Delirious" (rockabilly), "When Doves Cry" (psych-rock), "Diamonds and Pearls" (crooner balladry), "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" (Delta blues, soul-jazz fusion) and "Little Red Corvette" (Berry-esque highway anthem). Nothing compares 2 Prince's electric dandyism.