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Rundgren, Todd: State (Special Edition)

Veteran musician/singer/composer Todd Rundgren has been somewhat busy over the last decade in regards to his studio output, with his latest State being his sixth release in that time frame, and follows the critically successful Liars and Arena albums from 2004 & 2008. With his latest release State, Rundgren is working with the folks from Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red Records, and this album under review is the Special Edition 2CD set that includes both the State studio album as well as a live concert from 2012, recorded at the Paradiso in Amsterdam with the Metropole Orchestra.

State, as we've come to expect from Rundgren, is a hodge-podge of ideas and styles, more in line with what we heard on Liars and even 2000's One Long Year, differing greatly from the hard rock of Arena. Opener "Imagination" mixes progressive rock & heavy metal, as Todd's unique vocals are understated here to give way to bubbling keyboards and beefy guitar riffs. "Serious" is hook laden, catchy funk & pop, and a lot of fun, while "In My Mouth" again features some memorable hooks housed within a pop/bossa nova/electronica framework. Rundgren's penchant for always keeping up with the times lyrically first pops up on the charming "Ping Me", a lovely little slice of electronic, proggy pop music, complete with layers of keyboards and Todd's perfect vocal delivery. He's again following current technology topics on "Angry Bird", a futuristic techno-rock song about the well known game and features beds of keyboards and heavy guitars.

"Smoke" kicks off with some seriously huge sounding synth sounds, before the techno beats again come into play and Todd's catchy melodies take over. Without a doubt this guy still knows how to write memorable songs! Heavy rock and techno again collide on "Collide-a-Scope", a fairly odd song that ironically seems to work despite so much going on musically & vocally. "Something From Nothing" features guest backing vocals from Rachel Hoden, and this is really the first real 'ballad' on the CD. Emotional & haunting, this one has that certain 'something' that's hard to pinpoint, but it keeps you coming back for more. Todd wakes everyone up from the melancholy of that track with the upbeat "Party Liquor", which combines early '80s Utopia synth-pop-rock sounds with techno beats. It's catchy and fun, and a song that only Rundgren could have come up with. State ends with "Sir Reality", a mostly synth driven, futuristic pop song that also is noteworthy for some really fine guitar work from Todd.

For the most part, State is very much a Todd Rundgren album that we've come to expect, but at the same time he's trying some new themes and styles here which can keep you guessing from track to track. The overabundance of keyboards and techno beats might be somewhat of a negative for some, and I personally would have liked to hear much more guitar, but those catchy pop hooks and great vocals are just everywhere, which is a good thing. Most will either love or hate this album, but I think long time Rundgren fans who have stuck with him through every stylistic change over the years no doubt will be openminded enough to find lots of enjoyment here.

On the bonus CD, you get a very fine, fun concert with the Metropole Orchestra. The song list draws from his entire career, and he's in fine form vocally, plus these songs work very well with the orchestra. "Bag Lady", "Another Life", "Hello, It's Me", "Can We Still Be Friends?", and "We Gotta Get You a Woman" sounds just as good today as they did 35+ years ago. The soaring orchestra works wonders on the lush "Pretending to Care", and both "Flamingo" and "Frog" get royal prog-rock-meets-classical styled treatment. "Love Science" takes on a sophisticated funk element here, while "Mammon" approaches symphonic metal at times with its big riffs and orchestral bombast. The rapping "Fascist Christ" is surely the odd man out here, but otherwise this live set is very enjoyable and shows Todd as always is willing to try some new things.

Overall, this Special Edition version of State might not be looked at ten years from now as classic Todd Rundgren, but it still is a hell of a lot of fun and proves that Todd is not just willing to rest on his past glories. It might be different, it might be modern, but it's still Todd.

Track Listing
1) Imagination
2) Serious
3) In My Mouth
4) Ping Me
5) Angry Bird
6) Smoke
7) Collide-a-Scope
8) Something From Nothing
9) Party Liquor
Sir Reality

CD2-Todd Rundgren with the Metropole Orchestra
1) Another Life
2) Hello, It's Me
3) Pretending to Care
4) Flamingo
5) Frogs
6) If I Have to Be Alone
7) Love in Disguise
8) Love Science
9) Mammon
10) Fascist Christ
11) We Gotta Get You a Woman
12) Bag Lady
13) Can We Still be Friends?
14) Fade Away

Added: April 24th 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 3698
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Rundgren, Todd: State (Special Edition)
Posted by Gerard Oswald on 2013-04-25 16:00:54
My Score:

Great review of a fine Todd album. Sure, there's plenty of catchy electronica but each track is vintage Rundgren....great melodies, superb vocals and thought provoking themes.

State has become one of my favorite TR records (and I have them all). Enjoy!

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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