Futuristic Dragon

T. Rex

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Futuristic Dragon Review

by Dave Thompson

The most blatantly, and brilliantly, portentous of Marc Bolan's albums since the transitional blurring of boundaries that was Beard of Stars, almost seven years prior, Futuristic Dragon opens on a wave of unrelenting feedback, guitars and bombast, setting an apocalyptic mood for the record which persists long after that brief (two minutes) overture is over. Indeed, even the quintessential bop of the succeeding "Jupiter Liar" is irrevocably flavored by what came before, dirty guitars churning beneath a classic Bolan melody, and the lyrics a spiteful masterpiece. While the oddly Barry White-influenced "Ride My Wheels" continues flirting with the neo-funk basics of 1975's Bolan's Zip Gun, the widescreen sonic majesty of Futuristic Dragon was, if anything, even more gratuitously ambitious than its predecessor. "Calling All Destroyers," "Sensation Boulevard" and the magnificent "Dawn Storm" all bristle with lyrical splendor, while "Casual Agent" revisits some older glories with its near-slavish re-creation of the old "Rip Off" vibe. But if the other tunes pursue Bolan's new-found fascination for pomp over pop with barely disguised glee, he wasn't above slipping the odd joke into the brew to remind us that he knew what he was doing. "Theme for a Dragon" is an all-but Wagnerian symphonic instrumental -- with the sound of screaming teenyboppers as its backdrop, and the punch line lurking further afield among the handful of obvious hits which he also stirred in. The first of these, the big-budget ballad "Dreamy Lady," scored even before the rest of the album was complete. It was followed by the idiotically contagious "New York City," a piece of pure pop nonsense/genius which so effortlessly returned him to the British Top 20 that, for a few weeks through mid-1976, the idea of seeing "a woman coming out of New York City with a frog in her hand" really didn't seem as silly as it sounded. And when he followed that up with the rhythm'n'punk swagger of "I Love to Boogie," few people would deny that Bolan was on the way back up. That particular gem would be featured on his next album, 1977's Dandy in the Underworld; the Edsel remaster of Futuristic Dragon does, however, wrap up three further cuts from the era, the single sides "Laser Love," the languid "Life's an Elevator" and, best of all, "London Boys," a piece of undisguised childhood nostalgia which was allegedly written about David Bowie, one of Bolan's teenaged running mates. The song, incidentally, was drawn from a proposed concept album, ambitiously titled "London Opera" (one of two Bolan was then considering, the other was the sci-fi themed Billy Super Duper). The project was never completed, however -- for something else was stirring in the capital's bowels, that snarling monster which emerged as punk. And the moment Bolan saw it, he knew precisely what it represented. He began work on a new album right away.

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