In 1973, at the apex of his fame, Todd Rundgren followed up his hit-filled, double LP Something/Anything? with a record he christened A Wizard, a True Star.
It was as far from the expected follow-up as could be imagined, and forty years later, Rundgren continues to create the unexpected, as his latest effort, State, demonstrates.
Continuing the electronic trend he started on Liars, and the dance-pop trend started on (shudder) (re)Production, State is an album anchored in electronic dance grooves that may cause some long-time fans alarm.
Readers of this blog may remember that my review of the aforementioned (re)Production was less than favorable.
State is far better than that effort, but nowhere nearly as good as Liars...and Liars is not one of my favorites.
The opening track, “Imagination,” sets the tone for the rest of the album, breaking out an electronic dance groove that sounds more like Skrillex than Rundgren, and sounds all too much like Rundgren, at age 65, is trying to appeal to an audience a couple of generations his junior.
Lyrically, the album continues in the vein of Arena and Liars, exploring the lack of imagination that Rundgren feels abides today – in music, politics, and everyday thinking.
Musically, while I cannot blame Rundgren for trying out something new, there is something missing, and someone who wrote a review in a Yahoo group dedicated to Rundgren captured the problem.
There is no ear candy on this album.
Liars was an electronic album, but it had "Living."
Arena was a hard rock album but it had "Courage."
State follows along in the same musical vein, never venturing into "typical" Rundgren territory before the record concludes.
Lyrically, State displays some of the most culturally, personal, and socially critical lyrics of his career, but musically, it needed just one nod to his past.
Sadly, that omission leaves the album lacking.
Liars grew on me after the live show, and maybe the same will happen here. But unless you happen to be a Skrillex fan, I have a hard time recommending this one for anyone but a die-hard.
And a die-hard probably already owns it.
In an almost unbelievable twist, Todd Rundgren makes a return to the charts (the dance charts) with State.
Rundgren’s last Top 40 U.S. hit as a solo artist was 1978′s Hermit of Mink Hollow.