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Utopia - Deface The Music CD (album) cover

DEFACE THE MUSIC

Utopia

Eclectic Prog


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2 stars Now...i love Todd Rundgren´s Utopia (Especially : "Ra" "Utopia" "Oops wrong...") but when this one hit my ear...whoaaaa....whats this then...well its sort of Beatles goes Todd..if you will..it actually sounds like a forgotten Beatles album from the 60´ties. Except for the missing Lennon/McCartney voices,but as a Beatles pastiche its quite good. But prog....forget it!!! If you are new to the Utopia world..start with: "Ra" "Todd Rundgrens Utopia" or Todd solo: "A wizard a true star"....then move on to the other (there´s plenty of it)stuff. Rundgrens material is usually exellent (its a matter of taste isnt it?) but very ...eh..... all over the musical map. In short, its not all prog,some of it pop...some acapella..... some rock....singer/songwriter stuff.... But he is an interesting person. Anyhow, if you hate 60´ties pop forget this one!!
Report this review (#26507)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars UTOPIA was never overtly influenced by THE BEATLES, so the decision to create a condensed career retrospective of THE BEATLES on "Deface The Music" is something of a surprise. Almost all of the songs are variations on an earlier BEATLES theme: "I Just Want to Touch You" is a spin-off of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", "Where Does the World Go" is based on "I'll Follow the Sun", "Take It Home" is inspired by "Drive My Car", etc. The band occasionally succeeds at putting its own twist on THE BEATLES' songs -- the "Penny Lane"- inspired "Hoi Polloi" or "All Smiles" (which combines pieces of "Michelle" and "Fool on the Hill") improve on psychedelic pop much as XTC was able to do, but using tracks like "Eleanor Rigby" and "I Am The Walrus" as templates for "Life Goes On" and "Everybody Else Is Wrong", respectively, casts too great a shadow over UTOPIA's revisions to enjoy. TODD addresses the hopes of many in the opening track: "You might have heard this all before / But from me it could mean something more." Whether it's meant as a parody or novelty, "Deface The Music" sells their own songwriting skills and sound short.

A cute experiment, to be sure, but what was the point again?

Report this review (#26508)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Love me do?

If you've come across "The Rutles", a British comedy spoof of the Beatles created by Monty Python's Neil Innes, you'll have a good idea of what to expect here. Like the Rutles, the music on "Deface the music" is all deliberately designed to sound as much like the (early) Beatles as possible.

Rundgren does a good job if it, the album consisting of short catchy tunes which clone the Liverpool sound perfectly. If you were to be presented with these tracks and told they were from a recently discovered collections of recordings by the fab four, you would have no reason to doubt it.

The question is, why? Todd and the rest of Utopia have come up with some original and enjoyable work over the years, but this album is anything but original. Yes it's clever, but it does smack of grand scale self indulgence. For devotees of this web-site, there's no prog to be found here. For those who enjoy hearing the Beatles sound, you'd be better buying a Beatles album.

Report this review (#26509)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Don't you hate it when you have a compilation album with a couple of great tracks from an album you've never heard, so you buy that album, only to find out that the tracks on the compilation are the only decent tracks?!?!? I already had "City In My Head", a very good Utopia compilation on 2 CD's. After a year of searching, I found a used copy of this in another city (Houston). Good thing I only paid $8 for this stinker (it didn't help that it was an original issue, not a remastered version). Also, it clocks in at 32 minutes!!! Todd?!?!? Hell, he's put more music than that on one side of an LP!!!!! We are not pleased.... What must have started out as a good idea became an album with a few good songs and a lot of filler. The music, lyrics and arrangements should've been a LOT better.

Report this review (#26510)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars This album is yet another departure by Todd Rundgren – heck, everything he’s ever done has been a departure from something. In the case of Deface the Music, Rundgren and crew take on the early Beatles sound with a vengeance, or at least as much of a vengeance as is possible with this kind of pre-rock sound. The songs would have been very popular back in 1963, but as usual Utopia is reacting to a musical trend after it has already run its course, instead of being on the progressive forefront of a new sound. In this case they missed the boat by at least a dozen years.

“I Just Want to Touch You” is a pure pop song in the vein of the earliest Beatles – it’s “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with a little bit (but not much) better production quality than those early Parlophone recordings. Same goes for “Crystal Ball” and “Where Does the World Go to Hide?”, the latter of which is some sort of self-absorbed lament from a guy who I guess just lost his girlfriend.

On “Silly Boy” the recording quality sounds like Rundgren intentionally tried to inflect the tinny sound of those mid-60’s albums that were converted from mono to stereo. This is another ‘girl done me wrong’ song, as is the next one, “Alone”, which has a little bit of a Spanish flair with someone playing a fat acoustic guitar.

“That’s Not Right” is another pre-1965 clone, and “Take it Home” is a conscious rip-off of (er, tribute to) “Drive My Car”. By the time “Hoi Poloi” rolls around the band has worked its way up to the later 60’s hits like “Penny Lane” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. There’s also some horns on this one which is a bit of a change from the front side of the album.

“Life Goes On” is a story-song with strings ala Revolver or maybe even the white album, but the boy-band harmonizing vocals are just plain kitschy.

I’m not sure what “Feel Too Good” is supposed to be a clone of, but it sort of sounds like the Sgt. Peppers/Magical Mystery Tour era with a little bit of psychedelic keyboarding and throbbing, repetitive guitar.

“Always Late” is the filler tune, and “All Smiles” is Abbey Road era but without the ethereal mood that the Beatles brought to the original. This one also has harmonizing backing vocals, but these sound more like an Irish drinking song.

The album comes to a close with “Everybody Else is Wrong” is just kind of a generic tribute to that era of music, with no particular influence standing out. I will say that I particularly like the piano on this song, which is somewhat slower than the rest of the album, but the vocals are just plain grating.

I have no idea why Rundgren felt the need to release a tribute (or parody) in the form of an irreverent retrospective, particularly in 1980 when even progressive bands were struggling to figure out what came next, not reflecting back on what was more than a decade before. I suppose he may have felt this was a daring gamble to be different, but I’d have to say it falls kind of flat, and definitely has not stood the test of time in the quarter-century since its release.

If you’re looking for some really good mid-60’s music that is bright, upbeat, and reflects the times in which is was written, well – buy some old Beatles records. If you’re looking for a really good Utopia album, this isn’t it – maybe try Ra or their debut album instead. Otherwise, this one is for collectors only. Two stars, and barely that.

peace

Report this review (#78179)
Posted Sunday, May 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
jrthedevil196
5 stars I don't know how many people actually know about the information that I am about to give. This album was released in 1980. 1980 is ironically the year that John Lennon was assasinated by that psychopath in New York. Well folks, guess what? When his Lennon's killer was arrested, his belongings were gathered from his hotel room and among them was an 8- Track tape copy of "Utopia Deface The Music". Let's all stop and think about this for a minute. Look at the album cover of "Deface The Music". It has Utopia in the same pose as The Beatles were in the album, "With The Beatles", or "Meet The Beatles" in America. The difference being that the members of Utopia on the cover of "Deface The Music" looked like lifeless statues. I MAY NOW BE FREAKING SOME OF OUT, but let's look at this scenario. It's really ironic that Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, did just what the Utopia album suggested, he DEFACED THE MUSIC!!!!!! By killing John Lennon, he made absolute sure that no new Beatle music would ever be heard in this world again.

I don't want to keep dwelling on that piece of crap that killed John Lennon. What I am trying to say here is that I think those who dislike this album subconsciously know all of the above and it may be preventing all of you from enjoying a great Utopia album.

Utopia may have very well have been creating a tribute to The Beatles when they released "Deface The Music". I personally thought it was a great piece of work. I must however disagree with a common statement that was made about one of the songs on the "Deface The Music" album. All of the feedback that I have read seems to think that Utopia's song, "Take It Home"sounds like "Drive My Car". I have to disagree! "Take It Home" recalls "Day Tripper" to me. As far as the rest of the songs mentioned, I agree with what has been said by other people.

I think that everyone who dislikes this album needs to do the following: Take a Saturday afternoon or whenever you have some free time for yourself Put the "Deface The Music" disc in your CD machine Pour a tall glass of your favourite adult beverage Turn up the volume and "groove" to the sounds of Todd and the Boys

You may have a different opinion of this album when you really listen!!!

However, I haven't played it backwards yet, so I don't know what it says--LOL Just kidding

I happen to love this album in its entirety!

J.R.

Report this review (#88557)
Posted Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I recently bought this album despite some of the reviews on this site and i must say i was verily impressed. It is a fantastic album driving through the Beatlesesque sounds. The early tracks recreating the start of their career are fast with such poppy brilliance as Rundgren does so well, Alone is a stand out track on the first half; it still has the pop drive of the first tracks but mixes this with an emotional core that fits perfectly The second half is undoubtably the better of the two, it begins with a complete change of pace with Hoi Poloi which makes use of strings and woodwind instruments reminiscent of Eleanor Rigby and such other Beatles classics; this amusing number moves on into what is in my opinion the best song on the album. Life Goes On is a true masterpiece, it uses i think synthesised or at least highly electronic sounds to create the backing and creates an ethereal yet delightfully poppy song that one cannot fail to be drawn to. The final three songs are similarly very good all giving something unique to the album. Always Late draws upon themes common among Beatles Songs like I'm So Tired etc taking a comical light to it. All Smiles is almost reminiscent of Michelle and similar tracks and is overbrimming with emotion while the ending track Everybody Else is Wrong is a fantastic multi-layered piece which makes great use of production and vocal effects. A perfect end to a damn good album; the only thing that could be detrimental to this masterwork is its short length but this for me is not so awful and you wouldn't want an album with so much pop sensibility and drive to be too long. A deserved five stars.
Report this review (#96903)
Posted Thursday, November 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I first Heard this Album I was like WTF! It has grown on me over the years. I remember when John Lennon was murdered. I felt bad for Utopia, I think this album could have been a great followup to Adventures in Utopia. I wanted to so bad to see them perform this Album, but I understood at the time that it would be in bad taste to continue. I think the music would have been great live. I really like "where can the world go to hide" "Hoi Paloi", "everybody else is wrong" "Life goes on", and "Alone". I guess this Album will always be associated with the lennon murder. I feel that this was a big setback for Utopia. I think the Network album was another take on Deface.
Report this review (#282831)
Posted Thursday, May 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars What were they thinking?

In my opinion, this is the first complete miss in Todd Rundgren's repertiore. When listening to this album it is very difficult to tell if Todd and the gang were trying to create a tribute album or a parody. If it was meant as a tribute, I think they would have achieved that goal better by doing their own interpretations of Beatles songs. If it was meant as a parody, they come up far short next to the great Beatles parody by Neil Innes and friends "The Rutles".

The only real entertainment value when listening is to try to determine which Beatles songs were the inspiration for each track on this album. Many of the songs sound like they were inspired by multiple Beatles tracks. And too many of the McCartney style songs sound not like Beatles, but McCartney's solo track Another Day.

The good points? It's a short album.

Report this review (#347393)
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Wow. This album being listed under Eclectic Prog is mind-baffling. WHile some of the work of Utopia and Todd Rundgren can be considerd Prog, DEFACE THE MUSIC is pure Beatles- inspired pop-rock. It's not a bad album. In fact, it is an amazing tribute to The Beatles, similar to The Rutles, I guess, but I don't think this is meant as a parody album as much as a tribute album. There even seems to be a progression through the changing musical styles of the Beatles as this album goes on- pop to hippie. Nothing here is really bad, but this is not a Prog album. If you wish to hear the proggier-side of Utopia I would recommend their first release and RA. Normally 3 stars, but as a Prog recording, 2 stars is fair.
Report this review (#355439)
Posted Friday, December 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1327238)
Posted Monday, December 22, 2014 | Review Permalink

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