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Todd Rundgren - Liars CD (album) cover


Todd Rundgren


Crossover Prog

3.26 | 27 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Remaining true to himself

In the words of Todd, the songs on this album are all about "a paucity of truth". He goes on to say that they reflect "how much dishonesty we have accepted in our daily lives" and "the fact is, we are terrified of the truth". Strong words indeed, indicating that Todd is not inclined to shy away from controversial issues, and is as willing as ever to voice his opinions candidly and honestly. The risk with such ventures is that the message becomes the main focus of the album, with the music coming a distant second. So is this the case here?

Overall, "Liars" sees Todd returning to the accessible pop styles which he has remained faithful to on and off over the years. As such, many of Todd's fans were pleased with the album when it was released. As is the case on the majority of Todd's solo albums, he does all the work himself, including writing, producing and playing on all the tracks. Guest soloists are brought in for two songs ("Happy anniversary" and "Soul brother"), but apart from that this is truly a solo album (recorded at Rundgren's home in Hawaii).

The opening "Truth" has an 80's feel to it, with staccato synths setting a strong beat for Todd's power pop vocal. The song is reminiscent of bands such as Johnny Hates Jazz, Talk Talk, Mister Mister etc. As catchy pop singles go, this is the strongest Rundgren has come up with in many years. "Sweet" smoothes things down, with a Bosa Nova type rhythm of the type Todd exploited on "With a twist". While not quite as laid back as the songs on that album, this is a pleasantly relaxed interlude.

"Happy anniversary" includes the line "Men are stupid, women are evil" assuring Todd that he can upset everyone on the planet when he wants to! The song trades soft verses with overtly pop choruses and sounds remarkably like some of the upbeat material on Genesis "Calling all stations" album. "Soul brother" returns us to the smooth shuffle style, the song bemoaning the passing of real soul (music). Lyrics such as "And if you want to be a star, just grab your crotch and squeeze it hard" leave little doubt as to those who Todd feels are responsible for the situation.

"Stood up" lightens things up a bit lyrically, with such classics as "And when they asked for volunteers, I must have thought they said drink beers" and "And nobody has the slightest choice but to put up with my droning voice". The song has a pleasant pop arrangement, with some old fashioned phasing thrown in for good measure. "Mammon" is much darker, the sound being reminiscent of the work of the Sisters of Mercy. Todd's vocals are decidedly heavier and rougher than usual here, the song also benefiting from some fine lead guitar and symphonic "orchestration". Here it is religion which is the target for the Rundgren venom, the lyrics focusing on the monetary obsessions of organised religion.

"Future" describes how the promises which were made of a technological future free of mundane chores has failed to materialise, the song being set to a suitably futuristic back beat. "Past" may appear like a natural counterpoint to "Future", but in reality it is simply a lush romantic ballad. As such, it is a little out of place thematically here, the only "lie" as such being the singer's attempts to convince himself that a dead relationship still has mileage. That said, the song features one of Todd's passionate vocal performances.

"Wondering" is an unremarkable but enjoyable pop rock song, which might have been successful as a single 20 years previously. The song has something of a trance feel. "Flaw" reverts to the broken love theme, but this time the lyrics are far more direct and bitter. Musically, the song is a light soul number with decent vocal harmonies. "Afterlife" is not the doomy examination of the hereafter the title suggests, but a lighter musing with romantic overtones. "Living" features a TRI (Todd Rundgren interactive) type frantic rhythm supporting an anthemic melody. One would imagine that if he were so inclined, this would be a highlight in a live set.

At over 7 minutes, "God said" is the longest track on the album. This pleasantly laid back number is a sort of cross between Mike Batt and the Bee Gees, with superb a keyboard arrangement. The song challenges conventional religious notions that mankind has to "Suck up" to their God, but this time it is devoid of the anger and finger pointing of previous rants. The closing title track throws everything into the pot in a full blooded attack on those who send others into battle, be it as a soldier or as a suicide bomber. While not the most pleasant of listens, the message is stark and clear.

"Liars" is a fine album of reasonable diversity. Todd is fairly liberal in his use of the album's concept, but the tracks sit well together as a package. At over 70 minutes, the album is perhaps somewhat longer than it needed to be. That said, there is plenty of top quality music here, and some fine arrangements of the songs. Not Todd's most progressive hour by any means, but recommended nonetheless.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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