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Wham, Bam, Thank You Glam

Fancy-pants glitter bands from Detroit, Canada, and upstate remember their forefathers

Credit the notices doled out to T. Rex disciples Louis XIV for a reason to drag out old glam records. And then, once Slade and Mott the Hoople sides have been worked through again, it's nice to have new things to consider. Since glitter and glam are always in style somewhere, the task of finding good material is easy. Take, for instance, the very best in a fine bunch, Coming Out Electric by Atomic Swindlers from upstate New York. Guitar rave-ups stud lush pop tunes sung by April Laragy, who dresses in a blue vinyl suit and silver boots. Reclining in a drainpipe for the cover, she's supposed to be a mix between Barbarella and Samurai Jack, although you may think a bit of Debbie Harry. "Jupiter's falling," she sings, and it's reminiscent of Be Bop Deluxe's Modern Music—which means nothing to many, so think of it as a high point in orchestral rock melody. Also hot: the "Hang Onto Yourself" riff filched for "Diamond Dreamers."

It's hard to tell if Atomic Swindlers are really doing a rock opera about spacebiker lesbian stargirls in love, or just writing good hooks and hanging them on exotic thigh-rubbing imagery to get attention. The drummer is a college professor and is also the producer, delivering a knob job that's sonically Alan Parsons-engineered Pink Floyd-y. Doubtless, no one in their Rochester home must know what to make of it: atom airships crashing into the bay, every day, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

The singer of the Sirens also dresses in a hot vinyl suit, only this one is red and covers more of her. She also loves to perform Slade tunes, which she claims wreck her throat, not that anyone can tell on the Detroit band's version of "Gudbuy T'Jane." Even Screaming Lord Sutch (hear: Lord Sutch & His Heavy Friends) would have to admit they have the thumping beat, gutty guitar, and flashing lights. Add a knack for snappy Brill Building-influenced hard rock and/or rollicking Tommy Boyce-penned tunes like "Under the Moon of Love," performed à la Mud or Showaddywaddy. Three straight knockout shots come in a row: Suzi Quatro's "Glycerine Queen," "Destroy That Boy" (whose origin is hard to trace), and the aforementioned "Jane." Another home run is "Chez Maximes," an ebullient ripper, supposedly penned by the Hollywood Brats, about a brothel. It is said the Sirens are popular in France, where singer Muffy Kroha says the fans are crazed for glam-rock partying.

Detroit's Sirens love hot vinyl.
photo: Pete Wardowski
Detroit's Sirens love hot vinyl.

Details

Atomic Swindlers
Coming Out Electric
Download "Float (my electric stargirl)" (MP3)
Download "Wonderlove" (MP3)

The Sirens
Get Hip
Download "Chez Maximes" (MP3)

Crash Kelly
Penny Pills
Liquor & Poker
Download "She Gets Away" (MP3)
Download "Easy and the Fifth" (MP3)

Mud
Time and Again: The Private Stock Collection
Sanctuary
Stream "L'Lucy" (Windows Media)
Stream "Show Me You're a Woman" (Windows Media)

Marc Bolan and T. Rex
Born to Boogie
Sanctuary DVD
Stream "Jeepster" (Windows Media)
Stream "Telegram Sam" (Windows Media)

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Crash Kelly's Penny Pills rounds out this new trio, though the band of Canadians sell themselves short by just marketing to pop metal fans, a fickle crowd who can turn a tin ear to things I think are obvious. The title track is wistful; "ELO Kiddies" is Cheap Trick's song complete with bona fide Gary Glitter drumming. "Since You Been Gone" is a Russ Ballard tune based on the "Louie Louie" riff, and in the past it's turned into a hit for everyone who's had the brains to do it. An instrumental is included which telegraphs the licks everyone likes from Aerosmith's Rocks. The band seem to think they sound like Alice Cooper, but enough with the inferiority complex, already.

For a wrap, let's come full circle. "Under the Moon of Love" and other snappy Mud semi-hits that run an unusual gamut from Sweet-like glam raving to simpering but fun Saturday Night Fever pop are on the band's Time and Again retrospective, dredged from the murk of the mid '70s. And brand-new from '72 is T. Rex's Born to Boogie—take your pick of the DVD set or CD (the DVD's the better buy, playing like a CD, anyway)—which sets up Bolan's quartet as way more thundering and jammy hard rock than the studio LPs let on. The bass player is on fire; Bolan duck-steps nimbly while rockaboogie shuffle comes from a mountain of bright orange amps. And a really large number of girls, who could be described as plain-looking, dance and scream.

 
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