“Everybody can’t paint the Mona Lisa, everybody can’t be a millionaire…everybody can’t make a perfect pizza/ Because we’re all together again…”.
Although the opening lyric of Todd Rundgren’s grungy synth-symphony Global seems like nothing profounder than a kooky string of words, coming from him—the line is almost prophetic. For any other renowned artist with a ’70s-and-beyond resumé [mostly] of the perfect-pop variety, a swerve into slightly chaotic, digitally mixed-and-mashed EDM-tinged material would yield an eye-roll. And yet–for the 48-year vet Rundgren—such a plunge is naturally acceptable; plainly, it’s another destined-to-be-cool Todd-venture.
Alarm-clock loud, “Evrybody” is our first riotous specimen of the mixmaster’s recent sound experiment: a martian hybrid of stadium rock, techno, trance, and pop balladry. It’s a ragged-voice anthem with pounding cymbals and facetious references to Hollywood folly (“Everybody can’t be a movie star”/”Everybody can’t get a twerk from Miley”). An undercover sneer at pop culture, Rundgren’s intro track is zany and self-deprecating, though a deeper message of minimalism lurks within its silliness.
A handful of Global‘s tracks might qualify for treadmill accompaniment (“Holyland, “Flesh & Blood”). On “Skyscraper”, a flittering, unashamed ’80s-style workout beat guides the singer’s otherworldly suggestion: “Pay attention to the other dimension/ Come on down from your skyscraper…”. Resuming his anti-materialism sermon, Rundgren collectively disses Armani suits, Escalades, and grills…[the ones made for teeth, that is].
Along with its largely galactic motif, Global gets either love or hate for its radically ‘new’ production. Lasers, whirrs, 808s, and snares are the power tools for Rundgren’s part-time Auto-Tuned, part-time natural vocals—which sound fiercest when employed with his famously full-diaphragm force (“Blind”, “This Island Earth”). In typical Todd fashion, tracks surrender to both messily genius outbursts [the heavy fuzz, satellite-jam “Earth Mother”] and poignant interludes, like the goosebump-y “Soothe”. Sounding more artist-to-fan devotion than gummy love song, it’s a soft, 4-minute reverie swelling with ethereal keyboards.
Global is a taste of Rundgren’s penchant for the prismatic avant-garde, whether it’s tying humankind metaphor to the milky way or belting “I want to wrap my arms around the world” falsetto-style, while a techno-tronic beat—lasers and all—thumps below. Self-produced, the 12-track work is nothing other than a highly picky composer’s latest masterpiece; one who exerts just as much creative energy when penning a soft radio-pop ballad or constructing a deep-bass EDM chorus.
The album sounds nothing like Something/Anything or Todd, nor Arena, or State. Yet, in Global’s aesthetic divergence from Rundgren-‘norm’ lies its significance. A celestial array of bright, disco-dancefloor beats and starry contemplation, it’s as personal a peek into the singer-producer’s latest sound dabblings as one can get—and the utmost proof that he’s as relevant as ever.
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