Todd Rundgren hasn’t been this productive for years. Next month, he releases Runddans, a brilliant, beautiful collaboration with ‘cosmic disco’ wunderkind Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Emil Nikolaisen of 4AD noise-poppers Serena-Maneesh. Meanwhile, there’s an album with hip-hoppers The Roots in the works, and fairly hot on the heels of 2013’s State there is this, his 25th solo album.
You’d have to go back a long time – to his mid-70s golden age, when he was regularly putting out a couple of albums a year – to find a Runt as furiously creative as this.
Rundgren is one of those enduring types, like David Bowie, who whenever they issue something new it’s generally amid claims that “it’s their best since…”. With Bowie, the marker is usually Lodger or Scary Monsters. With Todd, it’s 1978’s Hermit Of Mink Hollow. But the fact is he’s been making great albums for decades. And so, if you liked The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1982), No World Order (1993), Liars (2004) or State, you’ll find much to love on Global.
Written, sung, produced and performed entirely by Rundgren (give or take a sax solo and some female backing vocals – there are some things even he can’t do) at his Kauai home ‘studio’ – a MacBook Pro computer and a software program called Reason – Global offers a dozen meditations on the state of the planet. But if that makes these songs about eco-Armageddon, crop circles and female radicalism sound dour, fear not: Global is an LP’s worth of fun, funky electronic pop toons. Todd goes EDM, if you like, only this is Guetta via Hanna-Barbera.
Ev’rybody is his best ironic-dumb clap-your-hands anthem since Bang The Drum All Day. Flesh & Blood is a lush fantasia that draws parallels between the primordial lure of dance music and religion. Rise is a call to arms (‘If we don’t rise then we will fall’) from a baby boomer who remembers hearing The Beatles’ Revolution in real time.
Blind is a blue-eyed soul ballad with balls – ‘Looks like he ain’t done shit so far,’ croons Todd of God – while on the electro-gospel of Earth Mother there are shout-outs to Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai. Soothe has the synth majesty of Compassion/The Verb To Love. Meanwhile, Terra Firma, Fate and Skyscraper are pop songs as instantly affecting as anything with Todd’s name on since, yes, Hermit.
‘Why won’t you come on down and join the party?’ Rundgren sings on Skyscraper. Why not indeed?/o:p