Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Todd Rundgren 17: Swing To The Right

For the second Utopia album in a row, the cover art features a Beatles reference. But while Deface The Music was played in the style of the Fab Four, Swing To The Right merely uses a doctored photo from a Revolver-era record burning to tie into the album’s theme, a reaction to the conservative wave then washing over America. For the most part, the music is modern (read: dated) New Wave, and something of a less robotic version of Devo.
The title track does approach the band’s prog roots, except for its “wacky” resolutions. Todd takes over the mic for “Lysistrata”, a snappy retelling of an ancient love-conquers-war Greek comedy, though “The Up” tries a little too hard to be catchy. Still, it’s a treat compared to the assembly line effects of “Junk Rock (Million Monkeys)”, which attacks the current music scene. That doesn’t stop the stock chorus pedal Todd uses throughout the album, though less so on “Shinola”.
A remake of the O’Jays’ “For The Love Of Money” doesn’t do the original any justice, even when followed by “Last Dollar On Earth”, which almost resembles the Tubes (whom Rundgren had produced before and would again). He manages to turn “Fahrenheit 451” into an enjoyable Prince-style party anthem, and then it’s over to Broadway for “Only Human”, a big blue-eyed soul ballad that sticks out badly at first, but soon becomes preferable to most of what’s come before. Finally, “One World” is a very decent rocker in the vein of such album-closers as “Just One Victory” and “Sons Of 1984”.
Swing To The Right is an ugly-sounding record, which matches the lyrical content, but doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. Having become a democratic unit—on the liner notes anyway, which credits all songs to the band—it’s not always easy to figure out who’s singing, except when it’s Todd, but the better songs are all his.

Utopia Swing To The Right (1982)—

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