Esoteric Antenna 2013
Given his devilish eclecticism, Todd doesn’t make odd albums: they’re just strange sometimes, and this is one of those.
With the record’s title of both situational and political meanings, Rundgren could address a number of topics in the grooves, but, defying initial expectations, goes for the personal matters. “Staring down the dry hole, that used to be a well”, he sings gently in “Something From Nothing” which, of course, sends an echo back to “Something / Anything”, the artist’s masterpiece, yet now there’s a bitterness to it – taste the disco soul of “In My Mouth” to get it. Writer’s block? Perhaps. Not for nothing 8-minute opener posits, “What is hell? No imagination”, while pressing the listener to the dry ground with a mammoth riff. It’s as heavily catchy as it gets to make one recall that Todd produced a Meat Loaf pinnacle and that his own belfry buzzes with bats, style-wise. Or with other flying critters, for only Rundgren’s sharp mind might perceive a social aspect in a popular video game to shape “Angry Bird” as a melody-stripped commentary on a woman’s role in the world.
For all the dated sounds of “State” – the DIY approach results here in a bedroom electronica over queasy rock – the veteran seems to be very “in” when it comes to today’s technology, so the slightly pathetic, if proggy and soft, “Ping Me” once again channels the communication problems that Todd stressed before on the likes of “No World Order”, and there’s a lot of TR-I ticks on “State”. Thankfully, if “Serious” crashes a rave party with a face too straight for the sheer deliriousness, “Party Liquor” lands joyfully on all fours-to-the floor with Rundgren barely hiding his laugh, whereas “Collide-A-Scope” resolves banal dualism of its lyrics with a delicate-vs-clangy arrangement, but not before it outstays its welcome, as do most of the tracks on display, apart of “Sir Reality” saved by its soaring guitar.
The weaknesses of this album is made all the more obvious by its deluxe edition, which includes a second CD with a concert Todd recorded with The Metropole Orchestra at “The Paradiso”, in Amsterdam, in November 2012, where romantic perennials such as “Can We Still Be Friends” and “Hello, It’s Me” are contrasted with the rare “Frogs” and “Fascist Christ”. These could have made a true state of the nation address, yet “State” seems more a transition.