Todd Rundgren is an odd fellow, some may say, and he certainly makes a very compelling point if he’s trying to prove it. Ever since he released his amazingly diverse double LP “Something / Anything ?” back in the 1970’s, he has only grown to be increasingly obtuse and hard to predict, sometimes at the expense of his music being borderline unlistenable and some other times producing grand masterworks that are not easily digested, and one of those is Something / Anything’s amazing follow-up, “A Wizard / A True Star”.
We’re talking about an album that has been reduced to $2 bin-status on most record shops and only a few have actually been reacquainted with the idea of the album being cool in some type of way since Kevin Parker cited it as a major inspiration on Tame Impala’s 2012 frenetic rock stunner “Lonerism”, which shared much of Wizard’s DNA in its phased/flanged out tones and wacky instrumental antics, but nothing much is really comparable to Wizard’s scope and ambition, and the thought of a one-man-orchestrated absurdist prog record is only one a megalomaniac or a complete genius is capable of, if not both.
Far, Far Away from Neverland
Just by the brief and simple inclusion of Peter Pan’s story into the album’s narrative, you know that Rundgren is not trying to be your typical provocateur, as he’s not going for a shock-value gut response from the listener and you can tell he’s enjoying playing with whatever random idea passes through his head in this obviously drug-abled trip he’s taking the listener through.
Todd, the producer, is probably the main protagonist of the album, as he doesn’t really portray himself as the star of the show in the album. Rundgren just let his creativity flow and each successive melodic line sounds like jabbled conversation he’s trying to engage you in without being fully awake or aware of his senses yet, but just the musical arrangements are indicative of all he has always been capable of and would subsequently demonstrate through his later production work, most notably on XTC’s 1986 masterpiece “Skylarking” which in turn bears some similarity considering all the proggisms and weird but catchy pop melodies both of these albums seem to so sternly insist on.
Psychedelic drugs definitely play a big role on this album and it is no secret to anyone that Rundgren partook in them while writing, arranging, recording and producing this record. However, all the arrangements and music passages are unbelievably sober and planned, something a high mind could’ve never easily put in place without serious hours of work and dedication, which undoubtedly went into the creation of this record, and its influence on an entire generation of bedroom musician afterwards definitely earns the title of Rundgren as an auteur, especially considering all the unbelievably different genres and styles of music he’s playing with on such a long album. It’s almost as if he wanted to reject everything that “Something / Anything?” stood for (soulful, market-friendly balladry) and deconstruct it until it could not be recognizable to the sober eye, and darn it, did he achieve just that.