Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Can We Still Be Friends?
There is a new Todd Rundgren record out this week. It is called "Global." I don't like it. But rather than immediately launch into all that is wrong with it, let me explain where he and I stand in our relationship.
For the better part of 40 years, I have supported the artist in all his endeavors. From his pop leanings to his proggy acid trips, from his guitar-hero arena rock to his impressive list of productions, I have soaked in it all. But unlike many of Todd's disciples, I am unafraid of pointing out the missteps. And there have been many.
"Global" is one of those missteps.
This would not be cause for alarm if it was the only misstep in recent years. But Todd Rundgren has had more consecutive missteps since 2008 than he has had consecutive hits in all his career and to pull a lyric from the man himself, "Time ticking away. Time's just ticking away." The odds of ever hearing a Rundgren record with live musicians playing the infectious pop, rock and soul we've all come to love since our needles first dropped on "We Gotta Get You A Woman" all those years ago, are against us.
I expect the usual backlash from the aforementioned disciples. The hyperbole. The adoration. The defense. But from a strictly musical standpoint, I refuse to believe any of these followers are truly and deeply happy with their idol, now about to turn 67 years old, releasing electronica with lazy lyrics and even lazier melodies. That's not to say there isn't a place for these rah-rah, autotuned anthems and pulsing beats. I just think it's a bit cringeworthy hearing Todd Rundgren desperately trying to stay current. He is better than this and should start acting his age. Thinking that "Global" will suddenly gain a city's worth of new Todd listeners is no different than thinking Paul Anka's version of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" will turn all of Seattle onto the wonders of "Diana."
In Todd's defense, he is still a master at most of what he does and younger artists know this, which is why Rundgren has recently been cited as an influence, specifically his 1973 sound collage, "A Wizard/A True Star," by many of today's hot players including Skrillex and Tame Impala. But his own personal forays into dance and electronica seem transparent, tossed off without an ounce of true inspiration.
"Global" has a big sound and of course, Rundgren's voice is as soulful as ever. It's a shame though that half the songs sound like retreads of songs from the last collection of electronica, 2013' "State." This is interesting in light of recent comments Rundgren made in Uncut Magazine.
"I guess I've developed a pretty flexible audience. There's a certain amount of churn, like a revolving door. If they don't like what I'm doing now, they know that I'm never going to record another album like that again."
Except that three of his last four records have been exactly the same. "Reproduction," "State" and now "Global" are all the same. Too bad the man wasn't fixated on piano ballads. Now that would have been some trilogy.
Rundgren also made a comment in passing that he his recording an album with The Roots, "like Elvis Costello did." I have more faith in ?uestlove than I do Todd Rundgren, and maybe one Philly boy can teach the other that it's okay to embrace your past without a fear of becoming a retro act.
Time ticking away.
Wake me when Todd Rundgren and The Roots is released. Until then, I will be listening to anything but "Global."