Friday, April 9, 2010

Todd Rundgren 5: Todd

What do you do when you’re a critic’s darling with a rabid fan base and multicolored hair? Put out another two-record set, your second in two years, loaded with a baffling combination of power pop, pretty ballads and total mindwarps. Todd is certainly overindulgent (67 minutes on four sides, but there’s still muddy sound and sure, some of the instrumentals could have been edited) but with a little more variety than A Wizard, A True Star. His synthesizer use is much more advanced, and as something of a thank you to those who met the challenge “I just want to see if you’ll put up with me”, not only does the closing track sport full audience participation, but thousands of people who sent in postcards included in the previous album could find their names on the enclosed poster. What a guy.
“How About A Little Fanfare?” is just that—a brief intro to the next song, with synth and the plane effects from “International Feel”. “I Think You Know” is a spacey song on a lot of levels, with nods to Electric Ladyland, going right into “The Spark Of Life”, a long but worthy instrumental that works, especially in the Hendrix context. The lead instrument seems to be a combination of a synth, a guitar and a voice, a sound soon to be appropriated by Prince. Some call “An Elpee’s Worth Of Toons” a Gilbert & Sullivan pastiche; we compare it to “Surrey With The Fringe On Top”, and unfortunately any redeeming qualities are sunk by the “what’s the problem sonny” section. “A Dream Goes On Forever” is the token pop song people were hoping for right in the middle of side one, while the overdramatic “Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song” is a bona fide Gilbert & Sullivan song.
Side two begins with “Drunken Blue Rooster”, another classical-inspired instrumental that doesn’t seem like much, but gains points compared to some of the experiments to come. “The Last Ride” is an actual song, slow and pretty with a big epic sound. “Everybody’s Going to Heaven/King Kong Reggae” is a multi-part rocker with lots of guitar, punctured by the stupid ending.
The third side kicks off with “No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator”, an overblown Hendrix-style song about sex, with a stupid “poem” section, but again, we hear hints of Prince’s psychedelic period. Luckily it’s redeemed by the suite from the pretty “Useless Begging” through “Sidewalk Café”, an unnecessary but effective instrumental link to “Izzat Love?”, a bouncy pop song that sounds like it’s speeding up and slowing down within each bar. A glorious tape effect ends the track to go into “Heavy Metal Kids”, a snotty cross between “Little Red Lights” and “Slut”, and not far from “Cat Scratch Fever”.
Side four truly tries your patience with a long Moog experiment, with indecipherable vocals halfway through, before an intro right out of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway heralds “Don’t You Ever Learn?” (We hear foreshadowings of Prince here too.) If you’re looking for a beautiful song about karma slash reincarnation, look no further. But wait! The grand finale “Sons Of 1984” was recorded mostly live with one audience singing along in one speaker, and another audience overdubbed in another speaker. An inspirational album closer on par with “Just One Victory”.
Once again, with just a little objective editing, Todd could have been an amazing single LP, but the guy just had too many ideas he needed to get out. Perhaps those less-than-satisfying moments help us appreciate those moments of musical gold all the more. Soon enough he’d find other outlets on which his expanding mind could splatter itself, yet he’d still continue to blur the line of expectation.

Todd Rundgren Todd (1974)—3

4 comments:

  1. First: Prince Came Later, So...None of This Lp Sounds Like Prince, Prince Sounds Like This Lp, Right. Second: Cat Scratch Fever Is From 1977, TODD From 1974, So... Cat Scratch Fever Sounds Like ''Heavy Metal Kids'', By The Way, Inspired By William Burroughs. This Doens't Mean I Don't Like the Way You Review The Album. This Means I Love Todd's Music I Love Prince's Music, I Love Uncle Ted's Music, But I Put Things In The Right Order. Hope Another Toddfreak Doesn't Read This, You Could End Up All Beated Up By Hate Comments.

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  2. Your chronology is indeed impeccable. I was only suggesting that Prince might have heard this album while he was growing up and forming his style. Thanks for the input.

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  3. Your assessment that Prince "may" have heard this album is spot-on >incorrect<. He DID hear this (and all of Todd's) albums, worshiped them and Todd, and attempted to nick a huge part of his "signature sound" from Rundgren. This stuff is documented; ever hear of 'homework'? Prince is so insecure, that instead of referencing Todd's work as an influence, he's abstained out of a (merited) paranoia that people wouldn't be returning to him after a taste of Todd. But Prince was never fit to grovel at the feet of a bona fide musical genius like Todd. You're derogatory, and downright cynical about the 'Todd' recording through the entirety of the review, until the end when you pronounce "it could have been amazing". Let me tell you how amazing YOU tell us it IS ... you ready for these superlatives?? 'Todd' is "overindulgent, muddy sounding, under edited, nods to Electric Ladyland on 'I think You Know' and 'The Spark Of Life' (Have you ever HEARD Hendrix? ... JEZUS), he sounds like Prince (only WAAAAY before Prince had recorded anything), it doesn't sound like much, is punctured by the stupid ending, is overblown with a stupid poem section, sounds like Prince again, is unnecessary, speeds up and slows down within each bar, sounds like 'Cat Scratch Fever' (3 yrs. BEFORE that recording), tries your patience, has indecipherable vocals, has an "intro right out of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' (BEFORE that Genesis recording had been released), and has less-than-satisfying moments" .... Todd didn't do a fucking thing right here, did he? A work of God-like fucking GENIUS, and all you do is piss and moan about how it was influenced by everything else, 90% of which hadn't even OCCOURED yet. I'll bet your kids have fucking inferiority complexes. I don't care if you print this or sensor it, you'll read it, and that's all that matters. Honestly, hideous journalism, and no ears to boot.

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  4. Where do I begin... how about this: Get well soon.

    I never claimed to be a journalist. And neither should you. You need to learn important things like "context" and "opinion vs. fact". And leave my kids out of it.

    Prince has been influenced by Todd? So I guessed correctly? How about that. And how about this: if it's so well documented, why not provide a link? Isn't that what makes the Interwebs so much fun?

    Thank you SO much for your invaluable input, hidden so conveniently behind an anonymous post. Can't wait to see what you hate about me next. Of course, no one forced you to visit this blog in the first place.

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