With his band’s popularity dwindling and drug intake rampant, it seemed by 1973 at the age of 26, oversexed and iconic, Marc Bolan’s watch was ticking. Ostensibly the last great T.Rex album, the undervalued Tanx receives high marks for explosive rockers and elegant, heartfelt ballads, cementing Bolan’s sensitive machismo minutes before he would vanish into the hearts of collectors and cultists with a string of albums varying in degrees of disaster from Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (1974) and Bolan’s Zip Gun (1975), to the dreadful neo-soul of Futuristic Dragon (1976) – excluding his underrated final album Dandy in the Underworld (1977) – through until the end of his life in a London car crash at the age of 29.
Ask any fan of 70s T.Rex classic rock and you will rightfully be directed towards hit machine albums Electric Warrior (1971) and The Slider (1972), when Bolan seemed to personify every ideal of rock superstardom in England. Tanx exemplifies Bolan at his most libidinous and direct and a last wheeze of the glam-rock, T.Rextasy era.
Tanx, again produced by Tony Visconti, consists essentially of the same T.Rex band members since Electric Warrior: Currie, Finn and Legend. Many of the tracks here were written in the studio, giving the album a rushed feel despite the strength of the materiel. In actual fact some songs sit nicely among other career-best classics such as Life’s a Gas or Mystic Lady in the T.Rex catalogue. Most importantly, two of the greatest songs he ever recorded, the glittery mid-tempo rhythms of Broken Hearted Blues and the subtle Electric Slim & The Factory Hen, have all the momentous riffs and fizzy froth of their finest moments. So too the sublime mid-album cool down Life is Strange, most recently appearing beautifully in the closing credits of Dallas Buys Club, lathers up that very same sound. Superb album opener Tenement Lady is composed of two mini-songs, the first being an up-tempo rocker and the second an exquisite string-laden ballad. The boogie of Mad Donna and epic album closer Left Hand Luke And The Beggar Boys takes that shuffle and combines it with maximum T.Rex boogie-rock grandiosity. There are the cock-sure head nodders (Born to Boogie) and hand-drummers (The Street and Babe Shadow) set to Bolan’s usual glam-psychedelic lyrics.
The decline of glam can be equated to an act of hyperbole and excess, once you stretch it too far it never contracts back into place and, in hindsight, knowing where Bolan was headed in the next three or four years, Tanx should be remembered not only as one of glam’s last great full-lengths but more importantly among T.Rex’s finest work.
- Tenement Lady ∗∗∗∗∗∗
- Rapids ∗∗∗∗
- Mister Mister ∗∗∗
- Broken Hearted Blues ∗∗∗∗∗
- Shock Rock ∗∗∗
- Country Honey ∗∗∗
- Electric Slim and the Factory Hen ∗∗∗∗∗
- Mad Donna ∗∗∗∗
- Born to Boogie ∗∗∗∗
- Life is Strange ∗∗∗∗∗
- The Street and Babe Shadow ∗∗∗
- Highway Knees ∗∗∗
- Left Hand Luke and the Beggar Boys ∗∗∗∗