Saturday, July 21, 2012

Todd Rundgren - The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

By the time Todd Rundgren began work on the follow-up to 1981’s , he had grown disenfranchised with his long-time label Bearsville, even taking the step of moving his band Utopia off the label for another.

The fact that Bearsville still wanted Todd’s solo material as part of their roster led to the tongue-in-cheek album title, but it was Rundgren himself that made the choice to provide the last effort for his label as yet another example of his inability to provide enough material to coat an elpee worth of solid tunes.

The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect is a rushed, choppy, contractual obligation with very little effort and even fewer memorable performances.

How ironic is it that it’s most famous track, “Bang The Drum All Day,” has become ubiquitous at sporting events around the country. Prior to that, it was a “clever” little bit of A.O.R. radio gold that they used to play on Friday afternoons, right alongside Loverboy’s “Working For The Weekend.”

It was a neat little comedic song when Tortured was release, but now it’s become an annoying cliché because some radio programmer equated it with the weekend release mantra of the proletariat.

The song that should have been the hit is the perfect rock radio cut “Drive,” where Todd screams “Don’t sit and cry while the world passes by/Stop tagging after the other guy/Just get a line on that mother…and drive” in a bit of awesome motivational technique.

The rest of Tortured Artist could have used some of that very same motivation, as Todd sleepwalks through cheesy synthesizer-laden tune that have little depth or hooks within them. A telling point is when Todd covers the Small Faces “Tin Soldier,” itself a throwaway move, but the emotion that he delivers the song with is more than double what he can muster for his own material.

Another one of my Todd Rundgren cut-out purchases, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect came in the form of a cassette that pretty much retained all of its oxide due to lack of playback, except for the one-two punch of “Drum” and “Drive.,”  Both tracks make the highpoint list within the context of this sub-par album while not being anywhere close to what Rundgren was capable of had he put his label politics aside and focused on a delivering a record that compliments his career instead of merely reflecting his business discontent.

1 comment:

Kiko Jones said...

You know, this is one of those records with a reputation for being representative an artist's recording nadir, but I don't think so. Don't get me wrong: it's not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. But Todd has done much, much worse.
"Hideaway" is not bad; he rescued "Influenza" on 'With a Twist; "Don't Hurt Yurself" and "There Goes Your Baybay" are harmless. Meanwhile, "Tin Soldier", "Drive and "Chant" are filler; "Emperor of the Highway" is pointless; and if "Bang the Drum All Day" were a human being I would've put two bullets in its skull by now.

But as terrible albums go, it's not THAT bad.