TODD RUNDGREN -- The Individualist (ION)

Multimedia pioneer Todd Rundgren's latest musical offering, The Individualist, has been available as a Japanese import for months now. The US release, originally set for August 24th, has been pushed back again. Citing compatibility problems with Windows '95 and the new CD+ technology, Rundgren's US label, ION, has now pushed the release date back to "sometime in October". Since the CD+ version of the album is not yet available, this review will take a look at things from purely a musical standpoint.

Never one to try to fit into the mainstream, Rundgren has come up with a few fresh ideas on the new CD. Overall though, The Individualist falls flat. The first track, "Tables Will Turn", shows a lot of potential - only to be ruined by Todd rapping in the middle section. Aside from that, it's probably the best thing on the CD. "If Not Now, When" is probably the only track worthy of being released as a single. "Family Values" starts off with the infamous Dan Quayle quote. If Rundgren wants to be political, he needs to keep things a bit more timely. Musically, the song isn't bad - however it quickly becomes irritating with the "in the house" chorus.

Moving on to "Espresso" with its lyrics about cappucino, it's readily apparent that Todd's running out of material to write about. The song "Cast the First Stone" sounds a bit like "Rundgren meets Reznor" with its industrial sound. Not that this is bad, it shows he's capable of sounding more "contemporary" without sounding ridiculous. There are moments of brilliance in several of the songs, only to be ruined by Todd's attempts at rap. "Tables Will Turn" and "Temporary Sanity" are perfect examples of potentially classic Todd songs. The CD ends with the only other possibility for a single -- "Woman's World", a song that sounds like it could be a leftover from the Utopia days. Unfortunately, second-rate lyrics about "pussy cats" dispel any chance of commercial success.

The Individualist is another true solo album for Rundgren, who wrote, performed, and produced all the songs on the CD. Always one to be a "hit and miss" artist, there is nothing on this CD that even comes close to the stature of his best work - Something/Anything?, A Wizard - A True Star, Hermit of Mink Hollow, or the excellent Nearly Human. The songs come across better on stage, as opposed to the CD. Musically speaking however, it seems clear that Rundgren's in a bit of an identity crisis right now. Purely in terms of musicianship, Todd sounds great. There are several excellent guitar solos throughout the disc. It's just that the material is lacking. The production quality is superb, as you'd expect from a Rundgren album.

It's entirely possible that when the CD+ version of the album is released with all the video & graphics, that it would get a better review. However, on musical merits alone -- skip this one.

© 1995 Steve Marshall