Tuesday, October 2, 2007

No: 173: Something/Anything?

Band: Todd Rundgren
Album: Something/Anything?
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: I honestly think this album was made to blow my mind. I cannot figure out whether it's an ironic pop masterpiece, sincere hokey love record or some combination of both.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: See above.
Best song: I know a lot of people like "Hello It's Me," but the album opener "I Saw The Light" is fantastic.
Worst song: "Saving Grace" is pretty bad.
Is it awesome?: I do not know.

There's something wonderfully endearing about a man who has released an album referenced on one of my favorite TV shows, "30 Rock." Especially when that album is "Hermit of Mink Hollow."

Anyway... Todd Rundgren confuses me on a level that no other artist confuses me. I mean, "Something/Anything?" was released in 1971, so I guess this type of sunny, optimistic songwriting wasn't ironic or post-modern at the time. On the other hand, Rundgren makes no bones about the fact that he was trying to ape certain sounds on the record. From the Carole King-ish "I Saw The Light" to rock and roll "Wolfman Jack," it's pretty clear that Rundgren is trying to do something in reference to something else.

Above all, it's an abjectly listenable album. Despite the studio sounds Rundgren experiments with -- the tape slowdown to devil's pitch in "Saving Grace," for example --, his record is incredibly pleasant. It's full of pop hooks and Rundgren's sunny vocals. Whether he's singing to Marlene -- "The prettiest girl I've ever seen," he intones -- or just introducing himself ("Hello It's Me"), Rundgren is amazingly peppy and nice.

I grew up in a time wherein this sort of thing was only popular to weenies and old people, so it's hard for me to call it great. I didn't grow up in a time of AM-pop radio. Rundgren, though, strikes me as the type of guy who would've dominated the charts. Like "Seasons In The Sun," "Dreamweaver" and "Spirit In The Sky," Rundgren sort of sits somewhere in the AAA category. But, this was when AAA sold you records.

Plus, this is some of the best goddamned AAA I've ever heard. It's wonderful elevator music. Some of it uses interesting drum patterns (my favorite song on the record, "I Saw The Light"), some of it is kind of built on nasty lyrics ("Slut") and some sound like cheesy "Hey Jude" ripoffs ("Dust In The Wind" -- not the Kansas song). But, they're almost all pleasant.

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