From the moment a friend showed me the gate-fold sleeve of “Something/Anything” I have been a Todd Rundgren follower. It is not always an easy journey, one moment a box of delights the next a Pandora’s box of annoyingly inane musical frustration. That is all part of the fun in Todd’s weird and wacky world.
I don’t think I have ever listened to a Todd Rundgren release and liked all of the songs immediately. Some of those albums that at first I struggled with; “Initiation” “Hermit”, “Liars”, “The Individualist” and “Faithful” have become real favourites because I felt as though I was on the same road to discovery along with him.
On first listening “State” sounds like an offshoot from “Liars” with a distinctive difference, it is an electronica, computer driven affair. Imagine the visuals for TR’s early MTV videos and then translate that then you might have an idea of the sound.
Todd now uses Reason from Propellerhead to record his music and the sound a laptop and guitar make with a few rack extensions added is layered and complex. In an effort to try new things (when does he not?) he has researched artists like Skrillex but has also been encouraged to engage with the music of Simian Mobile Disco and Hot Chip. Both have recently name-checked TR as an influence.
The songs that makes this album different are “Something from Nothing” as Todd does not really sound like Todd, Rachel Haden also shares the vocals and “Collide-A-Scope” where he mixes dub-step and electronica to great effect to make a real stand-out track.
That is not to say that the other songs are not as good, most are, especially “Imagination” which is almost a mix of Healing and Bardo (from Arena) with a great guitar sound and some sample effects thrown in. A few are not so easy to engage with.
Taking a voyage through soundscape and songwriting “State” delivers new territory that has structure and system to it. There seems to be a clear hierarchy of songs with the empire builders at the beginning and end and a troublesome neighbour or two somewhere in the middle.
Is this his most diversely themed album since “Hermit of Mink Hollow”? It Could Be!
Simon Jay Price. April 2013.