Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Todd Rundgren's "State": UPDATED (Now with 28% fewer typos)
I hated this record three months before I heard it. How unfair is that? Well, about as unfair as Todd Rundgren releasing it. Okay, that's not fair. Let's back up.
As you all know by now, I love Todd Rundgren. I've foisted enough Todd music on you in the last five years for you to get that picture and you've all been very patient, almost as patient as the loyal Todd Rundgren fans who, as Todd said himself, "...represent my livelihood, in one very practical sense, but they have also stuck with me for so long that I have to reciprocate." In all fairness, he was referring to Toddstock, the 3 day event where fans can get up close and personal with the man. But that statement hit me in another way. Rundgren has once again, impractically released music that is so far removed from what any of these longtime fans listen to or care to listen to, it feels like his real loyalty is to his five-decades-long self-sabotage.
So what does "State" deliver? In a little less than an hour, Rundgren's new record serves up ten tunes of electronica, danceable (says who?) songs with pulsing rhythms and quite honestly, some very thin melodies...you know, for Todd.
The record opens with an ominous slowburn of heavy metal power chords until it finally settles into a sweet melody on the verse which resembles the melody from "Past," the gorgeous ballad from the brilliant 2005 release "Liars." It's busy at 8:10 and an opener that I must admit, I quite enjoyed, self-rip notwithstanding.
Speaking of "self-rips," "Serious," which follows, is a funky little tune and basically just a rewrite of 1991's "Love Science." Oh well.
By the time I reached the end, I was angry. Another opportunity squandered, or as Mojo mag said in their not so favorable 2-star review, and I'm paraphrasing, "another itch scratched."
Each song has something to remind us of just how capable this tortured artist is. There is the beautiful complex melody of the verses in "Ping Me," only to be overshadowed by the chintzy production and lame chorus of "Ping me, you don't have to ring me." The same can be said for "In My Mouth" and "Something From Nothing," two songs that might have been new Rundgren classics. It's just a shame he's become so adverse to live instruments in the studio. This record, like his last three, sounds cheap. Like glorified demos begging for some live bass and acoustic drums.
The majority of the tunes I have not mentioned feel like nothing more than novelties. "Angry Birds," "Collide-O-Scope" and "Party Liquor" are unpleasant and abrasive, with "Liquor" sounding like halftime activities at a college hoops tourney.
I'm not sure who this record speaks to. It doesn't speak to me. I won't speak for other fans, though I imagine, there will be those, like those touched upon in last week's post about the Rolling Stones, who will find something positive here. But as someone who has listened closely to and loved and shared and defended this man for 40 years, I find "State" to be lazy, like yet another distraction.
Rundgren said this in a recent interview:
"It is impossible to control the circumstance under which someone listens to your music. It has never been more impossible than it is now. You’ve got half the people using ten dollar Earbuds that came with their player. You’ve got others who have 5000 watts of bottom end in their car so you can hear them coming from a mile off. The whole idea that there is one way that sound should be has lost its potency and it is not even an argument that I care to get into."
This coming from one of music's premiere producers...