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Various Artists 

Velvet Tinmine

Wednesday, Jan 7 2004
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Iron Virgin was the prototypical glam band. Its members wore ridiculous outfits (two-tone polka-dotted jumpsuits, bechained chastity belts), sang about teenage rebellion (i.e., skipping school), and were so long in the tooth they needed walkers to get offstage (mild exaggeration). And like many glam acts, the group released only a couple of singles before sinking into obscurity. But now -- thanks to a trio of Brits, including Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne -- Iron Virgin rides high in the saddle again. IV's "Rebels Rule" joins 19 other glam non-hits in comprising Velvet Tinmine, one of the finest retro comps ever (more mild exaggeration).

The glam revolution began in 1971 with T. Rex's Electric Warrior, David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, and Roxy Music. Soon, bands everywhere were co-opting stomping grooves, chant-along choruses, and sequined jerseys. But while bubblegummers like the Sweet and aging ponces like Gary Glitter scored hits with the new style, tons of records went belly up.

That's where Velvet Tinmine comes in. What may have sounded derivative and lightweight at the time, now sounds derivative and lightweight and heavenly. Glam was a junk-shop music, compiled from Bo Diddley blues riffs and low-rent synths, stuck together with attitude and mascara (or a Penthouse Pet, whom Fancy borrowed to coo its cover of "Wild Thing"). But these studio hacks knew their way around a hook and a chorus, making tracks like Crunch's "Let's Do It Again" and Warwick's "Let's Get the Party Going" irresistible. Even Nick Lowe got in on the act, in the guise of Tartan Horde, with the delirious tribute "Bay City Rollers We Love You."

It wasn't just the old codgers crashing the scene, though. Witness the ultra-cute "I Wanna Go to a Disco" by 8-year-old Ricky Wilde and "(Baby) I Gotta Go" by teen dream Simon Turner (who would go on to greater fame scoring films for Derek Jarman). Glam was the ultimate kiddie pop: thrilling and naive and utterly disposable. Velvet Tinmine might be made up of yesterday's trash, but it sounds like today's treasure (no exaggeration at all).

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Dan Strachota

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