Friday, November 20, 2009
Why has it taken five months to write this review?
The main reason is that my computer has been either sidelined with viruses (viri?) and/or unable to connect to the internet in that time. During the interim, I've had to use my brother's computer to check up on email etc., though it doesn't give me the opportunity to write, re-write, and re-rewrite these reviews.
That said, there has been ample opportunity to simply turn on my computer and write up a quick blurble, much as I'm doing now. In fact, I've re-listened to this record 4 or 5 times with the notion of getting back on that horse, spitting out some nonsense, and moving on to "O".But there's something about this record that has completely shut me down every time. It's not that bad of a record, especially in comparison with some of the drivel that I've suffered through. But the level of "....eh...." is high enough to make me want to put off reviewing it time and time again. Admittedly, it does deserve better.
This was the first big-time introduction of Todd Rundgren to the world, and he doesn't disappoint. The motto of my middle school (Humble Middle School, Humble, TX) was "What you are to be, you are now becoming" (I remember this saying dumbed down by someone during my first week at the school during gym: "so if you're going to be a bum, you're becoming one now". Despite my 3 years of consistent straight A's at that institution, something in the back of my mind said "bum, eh? hmmmm...." And now I'm 39 reviewing an album 5 months late that no one will read. Hmmmm indeed...) This rings true here: not only does Todd solely write 4/5ths of the record, it SOUNDS like Todd. Even on his first release, where HE'S NOT EVEN THE LEAD SINGER, it totally sounds like pure Rundgren.
The Nazz came outa Philly with a very fresh American take on British rock, melding psychodelic guitar & manic drumming with lush harmonies and melodic songs. This, my friends, is the origin of power-pop, and there is no better presentation of that genre than this LP's opening track, "Open My Eyes". Holy moloney, this is a crusher. Everything you could possibly want out of a great rock and roll classic is here. Beginnning with staggered organ chords & adding a clompy drum line, the fuzz guitar jumps in with a killer riff, soon doubled by a second guitar playing an octave higher, while one note on the organ holds on until the cymbals crash into the verse. And that's just the opening! The singer ("Stewkey") simmers during verses, the one down side of the song: "Stewkey" had no business being the singer: bland, no range, completely unable to bring any emotion whatsoever to this or the following songs. But right now it doesn't matter because here comes the chorus which is glorious - a sunburst of harmonies accompanied by Todd's stinging lead and Thom Mooney's Moon-like drumming. After another verse/chorus, we're suddenly transported to a lounge somewhere: this bridge comes from nowhere, and is a Rundgren trademark. After the vocals peak, Todd's guitar takes over while the group wails for 2 beats, 4 beats, 6 beats, 8 beats, then suddenly we're back into the opening riff, with that lone organ note appearing again and holding on for an eternity as the music peaks and washes us back to the chorus.
Now THAT is a song. It rocks, it swings, it's catchy, it catches you off guard with its changes, it's fabulous. And sadly none of the nine songs that follows can touch it. The next song, "Back of Your Mind", features "Stewkey" and Todd trading off lines and, though "Stewkey" was no singer, at this point, Todd wasn't really either. He was more of a yeller here, which fits the songs, but if you took out "Stewkey"'s vocals on this LP and put in Todd's, it wouldn't have made any difference in the overall quality. Decent verses on this second track, but an absolutely KILLER chorus, and easily the second best thing about this record. After a relatively drab Rundren-y "See What You Can Be" comes their second single "Hello It's Me". Todd later re-recorded this for his landmark "Something/Anything" record, which deservedly became a hit. This is the original recording and it SUCKS. First off, the tempo is non-existent: it seems at least four times as long as its 4 minute length. There's tons of harmonies on it, but they're nothing but window dressing due to "Stewkey"'s tired, flat lead vocal. I love this song, but oh my LORD, this version is awful. And it kills the album dead.
Nothing else on the record is really that worth listening to, unless you're a Toddophile. If so, there is an admirable almost astonishing presentation on how fully formed his compositional skills were even this early on in his career. "If That's the Way You Feel" & "Lemming Song" may as well be solo tunes, as they clearly could come from no other composer. I'm not saying they're great or even that GOOD, but it's kinda fun to hear this budding songwriter already so individual. As for the drum solo on "She's Goin' Down", I can actually do without it.
VERDICT: I can listen to the first 6 minutes of this record for all eternity, but don't make me listen to the rest again. And I forgot to mention the bass player's name: Carson Van Osten. If names are any indication, he shoulda been in Krokus.
VIDEO: sweet power pop, wash over me.