Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Todd Rundgren 19: The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

While Utopia appeared to be his main focus, Bearsville Records demanded that Todd Rundgren finish out his contract, so he did. The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect is another completely solo Todd album, written and performed entirely by his lonesome. By now the synthesizers and drum machines had become more sophisticated, so many of the tracks sound like an actual band again. The songs themselves are predominantly throwaway pop, and that’s not always a bad thing.
“Hideaway” sounds like it could have been a contemporary Utopia track, particularly when the timber of his voice changes. Though it may sound sincere to some, the spoken couplet seems more of a parody, and belies the tossed-off nature of the album. “Influenza” could have been a major hit by, say, a female pop vocalist, though the hook isn’t exactly top 40 fare. Right on schedule comes the sensitive ballad “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, with a lotta blue-eyed soul. A saxophone can be heard now and then in “There Goes Your Baybay”, which goes in and out of a bossa nova beat as found on most home organs.
Side two is just as fluffy as side one, in content anyway. “Tin Soldier” is a fairly faithful (but not exactly Faithful) cover of the Small Faces tune, with a really jarring percussive vocal effect in the verses, but an excellent approximation of P.P. Arnold’s wonderful high part and a precursor to the next near-hit he’d have several years later. “The Emperor Of The Highway” is another Gilbert & Sullivan pastiche, this time taking the guise of a gearhead on the verge of road rage. It’s kinda stupid, but nothing compared to the gloriously stupid song that made the album a hit. The ever-popular “Bang The Drum All Day” is positively infectious, and will probably be played at a sporting event within the next 24 hours, no matter when you read this. In contrast, “Drive” soon fades in with chiming guitars and driving (sorry) beat, under a lyric extolling personal perseverance. “Chant” has a similar utopian message, but isn’t as catchy as it tries to be, and now just screams new wave techno-pop.
It would interesting to know if anybody who bought The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect based on “Band The Drum All Day” got into the rest of the album, or the rest of his catalog, or even the Small Faces. Todd himself didn’t care much, since he was too busy playing with computers, experimenting with videos, and making Utopia albums. The album may not have taxed his creativity very much, but it’s more proof that with only the slightest prodding, he could spit out a catchy album in his sleep. We’d venture a guess he probably enjoyed the money.

Todd Rundgren The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1982)—3

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