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T. Rex: Dandy in the Underworld - Album Of The Week Club review

Touched by tragedy, T. Rex's Dandy in the Underworld was seen as a return to form by many

T. Rex- Dandy In The Underworld
(Image: © Demon Records)
T.Rex: Dandy In The Underworld

(Image credit: Demon Records)

Dandy in the Underworld
Crimson Moon
Universe
I'm a Fool for You Girl
I Love to Boogie
Visions of Domino
Jason B. Sad
Groove a Little
The Soul of My Suit
Hang-Ups
Pain and Love
Teen Riot Structure

Released just a few months before Marc Bolan’s untimely death, Dandy In The Underworld is a dazzling collection of vintage, back-to-basics glam rockers like the slinky Jason B. Sad, the pinballing Hang Ups and the gloriously tacky Crimson Moon.

Had he been around long enough to properly promote it, Dandy… could have been Bolan’s very own ‘68 Comeback Special, most likely propelling him right back onto his rightful throne as the boy king of all things glitter. 

But even touched, as it is, by tragedy, Dandy In The Underworld remains a fun, funky album, and the perfect coda to the remarkable story of T. Rex.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in March 1977

  • High Class in Borrowed Shoes - Max WebsterQuiet Riot
  • Quiet Riot - Quiet Riot
  • Foreigner - Foreigner
  • Islands - The Band
  • Works Volume 1 - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • The Idiot - Iggy Pop
  • Let There Be Rock - AC/DC
  • Whatever Happened to Slade - Slade
  • Live! - Status Quo
  • Malice in Wonderland - Paice Ashton Lord
  • Saw Delight - Can
  • Something Magic - Procol Harum
  • Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk

What they said...

"It is not, overall, one of his strongest albums, and the demos and outtakes included on the later volumes of the Unchained series suggest that his proposed next album would have left it far behind. But conjecture, like hindsight, can be a dangerous gauge. At the time, Dandy not only seemed bloated with promise, it was pregnant with foreboding as well. Listen again to the lyrics of the title track – self-mythologizing autobiography and not a happy ending in sight.  Just like real life." (AllMusic)

"Oddly enough, the album finds a reinvigorated Bolan crafting some of his best hooks and calibrating his catchiest grooves in years. The cosmic Crimson Moon, the infectious I'm a Fool for You Girl, and the album's centrepiece, Jason B. Sad, alternate between carefree and cautious, conjuring a gravity that counterbalances the upbeat, stripped-down rhythms. (Pitchfork)

"Dandy In The Underworld saw Bolan presenting an LP set that was easily his most consistent LP playing effort since The Slider. This was good, and had he only lived long enough, could have been a building block for a genuine career revival. I could quite easily imagining Bolan going through the 80s, having good times and bad, but at least making good music throughout. It wasn't to be, and Bolan at least ended on a highpoint." (Adrian Denning)

What you said...

Jonathan Novajosky: I have never liked T. Rex and this album did nothing to change that opinion. I find the vocals so unappealing to a point where they are almost irritating. So many of these songs like Crimson Moon or I Love To Boogie are overly repetitive, which causes even more harm to the album given that a great deal of them are under three minutes long. There's a little bit of groove to a few of the songs, but that isn't enough to overcome its shortcomings to me. Congrats to them for making the HOF (if that even means anything), but as an album, I was less than impressed by Dandy In The Underground. 3/10.

Adam Ranger: My favourite T rex Albums are Electric Warrior, The Slider, then T Rex, but Tanx and Dandy are great too. This is a fun album, funky in places, well produced and his voice is in fine form. I Love To Boogie is like a vintage T Song, Dandy In The Underworld – the title song – is magnificent. Visions Of Domino another favourite from this album, Jason B Sad echoes of Jeepster and Telegram Sam. A solid T. Rex album and it should be more highly regarded than it is.

Martin Millar: Good choice. Marc Bolan and T. Rex had a difficult time after their glam heyday, and they'd released a couple of not so good albums. This was a big improvement. Not quite up to the standard of T.Rex, Electric Warrior and The Slider, but it's a really good record. Marc Bolan really was a gigantic influence on British music. He was such a star. For years afterwards I'm sure anyone who picked up a guitar had seen him on Top of the Pops and quietly thought 'I'd like to be like that.'

Julie Plumpton: I grew up with the glam rock backdrop in my early teens, and so as a fan of Bolan it's hardly surprising that I would love this album. No it's not spectacular, but nonetheless there is no denying his poetic talent and effortless melodic voice.

Bill Griffin: This is the first T. Rex album I've ever heard (and maybe the first T. Rex song that wasn't Bang A Gong I've ever heard). The production is pretty good and the music is well done but I didn't hear anything that stood out. I wouldn't turn any of it off if it came on the radio (or Pandora, etc.) but neither would I spend money on it.

John Wheatcroft: Never listened to this before and an album, heard odd tracks as you do. I must admit a great 70s soft rock album. I am sure anything after this would have been interesting, but alas it wasn't to be. Another reason why this is a great page: it makes you listen to stuff you were aware of but just passed up. I wouldn't be averse to picking up a copy now.

Mike Knoop: T. Rex is a band I only know of in the past tense. They put out some great singles, but, before this week, Electric Warrior is probably the only album I've listened to all the way through. In general, I like Dandy in the Underworld, but it must have sounded positively square coming out in the middle of the punk boom. 

I Love to Boogie is more "anachronism in the UK" than anarchy. What probably surprised me the most about T. Rex once I got past songs like Bang A Gong or 20th Century Boy is how non electric, non warrior they were. When Bolan curses in Hang-Ups, it seems forced and silly, instead of having any real edge. 

Still, Marc Bolan is an ace at banging out easygoing, short shuffles, and this album's full of them: the title track, the aforementioned I Love To Boogie, Groove A Little, The Soul Of My Suit, Teen Riot Structure, Jason B. Sad, - even if the latter seems to crib its main riff from T. Rex's own Bang A Gong (Get It On). Pain & Love is my favourite track here. Bolan's delivery is so much like latter-day psychedelic folkie Devendra Banhart that I find myself re-evaluating both artists' careers.

Mauricio Telles: This is the first time I've heard a complete T. Rex album. And I liked! So thanks for this awesome group and the fellow that recommended it.

I've spend my life so far listening to other types of music and certainly I neglected Glitter, apart from loving early Bowie, Kiss and having (very) occasional fun with The Sweet. And because of that, and the big amount of crap that is being released nowadays, I will pay my dues to glitter music.

Not sure if I will love it, but I don't think that will be boring, like this album. My highlights are the title track, Crimson Moon, Universe, Visions of Domino and Hang-ups. 5/10.

John Davidson: I grew up in the 1960s and 70s with Top of the Pops providing the soundtrack. Marc Bolan, Slade and David Bowie were all regulars alongside Sweet, Mud and Suzi Quatro.

Of those only Bowie really transcended the notion that they were ephemeral "singles-only" artists that you might listen to on a best of or compilation album, though Slade gave it a good old go.

Does "Dandy" change that?

Nope. Not one notch.

Every song sounds like it could have been a single. Every song bar Pain And Love is characterised by a simple, sometimes effective, melody and a mid paced danceable shuffle.

When not reduced to repetitive chorus lines the post hippy space child lyrics were an anachronism and although I Like to Boogie did bring Bolan back to Top Of The Pops in 1977 it felt like he'd run his course.

Formative years notwithstanding, it's fair to say that four years was a long time in music in the 1970s and the gulf between 1973 and 1977 was too deep for artists like T. Rex to bridge.

Marco LG: T. Rex are an interesting band for me, there is nothing I don’t like in their discography, and at the same time there is also nothing I consider ‘desert island’ material. Yet, every time I listen to them I enjoy it, a lot.

The songs are fun, easy to sing along and dance with. They never overstay their welcome and often sound somewhat dangerous and over the edge. That is of course almost entirely down to the talent of Marc Bolan, who might not have been the best singer ever, but was a great showman.

Absolute highlights on this album for me are Dandy In The Underworld, Universe, The Soul of my Suit and the closing Teen Riot Structure. I will also mention I Love To Boogie and Groove A Little are less engaging than the rest, but overall this is a collection of twelve great tunes.

As the closing chapter of T. Rex adventure Dandy In The Underworld gives plenty of material to speculate on what could have been. The era of MTV was around the corner and we can be sure Marc was going to embrace it. Shame it wasn’t to be, for the man and the musician. And for the legend.

Michael Porter: I picked up on T. Rex when Hot Love came out but we didn’t have a record player until 1972. The first full price album I bought was Electric Warrior and I felt he could do no wrong for about 2-3 years but, by 1974 he had gone off the boil. I was by then 14 and musically I’d moved on and so have never heard this album before, although I own a number of the tracks.

I find this album frustrating – for every intelligent song that offers something worth getting into there is then a simplistic repetitive throwaway. There are certainly songs that I will keep such as Teen Riot Structure, but it is a hit and miss album, nowhere near the quality of some of earlier material. I wish it had blown me away 5/10

Mauro Lucke: No Get it On (Bang a Gong) here, but it's a pretty fun album! You can almost feel Bolan getting his soul back! I just love the title track and Crimson Moon. Sadly, we will never know what he would come up with next, but I think it"s a fitting epitaph.

Carl Black: I've never heard anything from this album before, my T .Rex knowledge is limited to the"famous" songs. And I have the same issue with those famous songs as I do with this album. At the very base of each song is a solid guitar riff which AC/DC would be proud of. But the layers and textures that are placed on top strangle and stifle the song. Like a badly topped pizza. It's always a horn section or a string section that dilute the pure rock'n'roll. What I'd like is an album with just Marc Bolan, his guitar and nothing else. This record is not for me

Jeff Coler: Although I own and frequently play Electric Warrior, I admit I know very little about the rest of the T. Rex catalog. Thanks for suggesting this album - I would never have given it a spin otherwise. There were definitely some interesting moments for sure (drum intro to Hang Ups, infectious melody of Crimson Moon), but they are far outweighed by mundane tunes (The Soul of My Suit). I would probably score this effort a 6/10.

Gary Claydon: I've never subscribed to the view that this was Bolan's big resurgence. Sure, it's better than the previous two albums, with their scattergun approach to which direction he wanted to go. They were very much a case of let's chuck a load of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. 

I think Dandy... has been afforded a higher regard than it deserved due to it being the final album before the sad events later in 1977. Only I Love To Boogie comes close to recapturing the glories of the likes of Electric Warrior, Slider and Tanx. For me the rest is pretty boring. It was hard not to like Bolan. He had the look, he had the voice, he had the charisma. He was a true rock star, but Dandy... wasn't him at his best.

Michael Toal: First T. Rex album I've heard in full. Enjoyed it a lot. Liked the diversity of the songs and will definitely be checkin out the rest of the back catalogue.

Eddie Peuker: Way oversold this in the intro. Nothing of substance made my ears perk up. My ears were cringing from the noise I made them endure. No lyrical magic, no magical licks, boring beats, and cringeworthy verbal vibrato. No thank you.

Brian Carr: Count me among the commenters with limited T. Rex exposure. I listened to Electric Warrior and liked the sound a lot and love the groove to Slider, which I first heard as a cover by a band called Seduce, but never really took an extended dive into the catalog.

I listened to Dandy In The Underworld quite a lot this week and have to say it’s been a somewhat frustrating process. The title track is cool as I fell right back in love with the spaced-out, aloof groove, but the outro was a precursor of the main issue I have with the album: aggravating repetition. Repeated lyrics and songs that seemed to have one riff for 2-3 minutes made me wonder if the album was completed after Bolan’s death. It really felt to me in quite a few places like unfinished song ideas.

Normally it would just be a pass and never listen again, but there is so much on Dandy that I like. The groove of Universe and Hang-Ups perk up my ears as much as any seventies funk I love so much. The riff to Pain And Love is so killer, but I’m put off by the repetitive vocal (did Bolan’s voice on that track make anybody else wonder if Anthony Kiedis found a Delorean and traveled back for a guest vocal?). Makes me want to steal the riff and write a different vocal melody and lyric. 6/10, but I really wanted to like it more.

Final Score: 6.15 ⁄10 (155 votes cast, with a total score of 952)

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