You, me, the music, and me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TODD RUNDGREN Hermit of Mink Hollow

Bearsville BRK 6981 (1978)

Todd Rundgren's name might not be immediately recognizable to the ear, but his music may be, especially if you grew up in the seventies anywhere near the rock album phenomenon that was Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, which Rundgren produced and played guitar on. He's remained prolific since then, releasing albums on his own and producing bands such as The Pursuit of Happiness and XTC.

Rundgren was and is the kind of fellow who likes to do things his own way (during the recording of XTC's Skylarking, he butted heads with bandleader Andy Partridge so many times that Partridge quit the band not once, but twice), and if that means doing everything himself, then so much the better. Therefore, the invention of the synthesizer was like a godsend to Rundgren, who was already a multi-instrumentalist but was now able to record nearly everything himself. Unfortunately, this sometimes gives his albums a tinny, insular feel, and many of the sounds and textures on Hermit of Mink Hollow sound like they would have been out of date even during the seventies.

What saves the day is Rundgren's undeniable gift for a catchy hook, regardless of subject matter. The album is divided into "the easy side" and "the difficult side", but both are full of instantly hummable melodies, whether it's the first side's relationship tales "Can We Still Be Friends" and "Hurting for You" or the second side's "Bread", "Bag Lady", and "Lucky Guy", which deal with weightier topics like homelessness and depression. Even a throwaway novelty like "Onomatopoeia" would be a highlight on most other singer-songwriter's albums.

Rundgren continues to record, tour, and embrace technology as it suits his purposes; he maintains his website himself and is a pioneer in music multimedia. On Hermit of Mink Hollow, though, the focus is on the songwriter and his songs.


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