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Utopia - Adventures In Utopia CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.25 | 39 ratings

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4 stars UTOPIA arrived at a compressed cuteness on "Adventures In UTOPIA" that would serve them well over the next few years. The change was necessary: 1980 was a watershed moment in music, as artists anticipated the futureworld of "1984", so many moved forward lest they be left behind. RUNDGREN wasn't a musical groundbreaker like DAVID BOWIE, PETER GABRIEL or TALKING HEADS, but he did share their interest in video as a new frontier, creating a television video (called simply "UTOPIA") to accompany this album. I haven't seen it, but the standalone nature of these songs doesn't require a visual explanation anyway. The story here isn't what you're missing but what you're getting: ten tightly conceived tracks that finally deliver on the band's UTOPIAn ideal of four engines simultaneously humming (and pulling their share of the weight). Earlier UTOPIA albums seemed to rise and sag as they corresponded to TODD's level of participation, but here Todd (and the rest of the band) seem to be equally engaged on every track. Some of its consistency stems from the decision to mask the vocals using effects, so all four members end up sounding about the same. And catchy choruses (long a RUNDGREN hallmark) abound, seemingly spreading RUNDGREN's influence evenly over the entire album. Despite a couple of slow moments, like the synthetic torch song "Love Alone", "Adventures In UTOPIA" is memorable for its swift, contagious energy. "The Road To UTOPIA" provides an intoxicating entrypoint, and the inevitable hissing of air from the balloon never happens. Playful pop songs rendered with new wave stylishness ("You Make Me Crazy", "Shot In The Dark"), crowd-pleasing kiss-off songs ("The Very Last Time", "Set Me Free"), and spacey stories ("Caravan", "Last of the New Wave Riders") follow, all of them keepers in the canon. As an outside producer, RUNDGREN was certainly aware of the new direction in popular music established by acts like THE CARS and GARY NUMAN; in adopting a similar approach for UTOPIA, Todd mapped out a new future for the band that discarded the outmoded prog rock approach for a cleaner, quirkier sound.

To my tastes, this ranks right up there with the best UTOPIA has to offer; in fact, it's the UTOPIA album I play most often.

daveconn | 4/5 |


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