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Utopia - Deface The Music CD (album) cover

DEFACE THE MUSIC

Utopia

 

Eclectic Prog

2.88 | 36 ratings

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CassandraLeo
5 stars

This album seems to be either loved or hated, with little middle ground. Count me in the "love" category. This album had the severe misfortune of being released around the time of John Lennon's assassination, which doomed it to commercial failure, but in musical terms it rivals the Rutles as being as superb a Beatles pastiche as has ever been assembled; as evidence, Rundgren submitted the lead-off track, "I Just Want to Touch You", for the soundtrack of the film Roadie, and it was rejected because the film's producers were afraid of getting sued due to its strong similarity to the Beatles' music.

The album effectively sounds like a 1980-era update of the Beatles' sound, and it goes roughly through the band's career, with the opening song sounding a lot like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There" and the closing track having obvious similarities to "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus". It's fun to pick out all the musical references to the Beatles' catalogue, with "Feel Too Good" seeming a bit like "Getting Better" and "All Smiles" being awfully reminiscent of "Michelle", but the songs are enjoyable on their own merits even without the spot-the-Beatles-reference game. They're simply great pop songs in their own right. The lyrics often veer more towards the side of parody, but it's certainly on the affectionate side; an album that mimics the Beatles this well couldn't have been recorded without significant love for the source material.

The album's only real weakness for me comes on the "Eleanor Rigby" pastiche "Life Goes On", which suffers from using a synthesizer rather than an actual string quartet to replicate the original song's string arrangement. If this album had been recorded today, using a synthesizer might have been less of a problem, but the synthesizers of the early 1980s were not particularly great at producing the sounds of string instruments. Other than that, I have no complaints with this record. Rundgren and company don't do dead-on Beatles impersonations vocally like the Rutles did, but that's fine; they're capable singers in their own right, and the album's vocal harmonies sound great.

One does, of course, end up wondering how much this belongs in a prog collection, and the answer ends up being "it depends on the listener". The Beatles are, of course, one of the most important precursors to prog music, and thus many prog aficionados will end up enjoying them. Whether a listener will enjoy this record mostly comes down to whether they will enjoy an affectionate parody of/tribute to them or not. That's obviously a bit subjective, but as far as Beatles parody-tributes go, I can only place the Rutles in the same league, so I can't help giving it anything but the full five-star rating.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |

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