Tuesday, May 7, 2013


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.


    It's good to see you are able to remain objective even in analyzing the work of a longtime favorite and a kind of "musical hero". That's not always easy for some people to do.

    I recall back in the mid to late 1970s when Styx was my musical god, a couple of their albums released in a row did not thrill me as much as the former productions had, but being a mere teenager, I couldn't get myself to "face the music". But finally, after a third slightly disappointing LP, I finally had no choice but to admit the obvious: I don't like this band anymore.

    Of course, that will never be the case for you - the relationship has been too long and too personally intense - but I applaud you for not being one of those hardcore fans of a musician or group who makes such insane remarks like, "Every single record this musician has ever released is an absolute masterpiece!" I've run across many comments like that (one or two of them made by Pat Metheny fans) and they are just so ridiculous.

    Anyway, here's hoping Todd Rugrat's next album is one that blows your mind and rockets to the top of your All-Time Fav list, Bro.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. I don't know Stephen-he turns 65 in a few weeks...his next album may be covers of Lawrence Welk tunes!

      I think the big difference for you is your taste changed entirely, while I still like the TR stuff I have always liked.

      Enough people liked this new album to put it on a Billboard chart, but quite frankly, I thought his 90's rap album was a better effort than these last two electronica efforts.

      Two brothers and a sister decided to accompany me to the TR show in Philly this weekend and I just saw that the set list is made up mostly of these last two albums. Hope they're not pissed...

  2. I read your comment exchange with Stephen...

    It is hard when an artist that you love takes a Wrong Turn and all that potential just blows in the wind. You know that it is in there somewhere. Or you hope that it is. Even worse, you pay to go see a show and they are still trying to make something work that really isn't. I hope that you can make it through without becoming too disenchanted.

    1. Robin-I can't imagine not liking a live performance. He'd done an album that was electronic (just not dance music) that I did not much care for but I loved the live show.

      And I try not to take such things too seriously, anyway.

      Any day I am on this side of the dirt is a good day!

  3. It's pretty crazy that he's back on the charts after all this time.