Six years displaced in time, here is the follow-up to Something/Anything? Todd Rundgren's unalloyed pop craft motivates every moment of Hermit of Mink Hollow. While there are some concessions to modernity -- the synthesizers that thicken a few Phil Spector-like productions, a lavish use of the shivery suspended chords Rundgren's always loved (but that Steely Dan made commercial) -- Hermit of Mink Hollow's dozen songs all stem from the universal library of luminous pop enjoyment that this curious artist carries around in his head. They condense the whole world into a three-minute capsule and promise eternal youth. They know the rules so well that it's almost a joy to conform.
Rundgren understands pop as a vehicle of genuine communication perhaps better than anyone: he never trifles and rarely gets silly. Hardly the "gloriously cheap displays of human emotion" that rock writer Cameron Crowe once claimed of Something/Anything?, these pieces are concise but careful observations of anything Rundgren confronts. He offers a couple of conventional love songs, but *be careful*: "All the Children Sing", which begins as such, soon expands into an analysis of Rundgren's reputation as a utopian philosopher and guru. "Too Far Gone" sympathetically depicts his family and friends passing judgement on his quirky career.
These examples are all on "The Easy Side", where the pitches tend to be higher and the subjects less severe. "The Difficult Side" is difficult only because the emotions are purer and more wrenching. "Bread" is a protest song, but it doesn't preach. The protagonists -- people in this country who are starving -- tell their own story and bite their own bullets as the energetic, minor-key music builds from Byrds-like angularity to full roar. "Bag Lady" is quite subtle and absolutely chilling: sprung rhythms and inconclusive, airy chords paint the portrait of an old, tattered subway denizen until "One day it gets a bit too cold/Maybe a bit too wet, maybe a little too lonely/Lifelessly she lies amidst her bag world/But maybe she's only sleeping". Neither simple nor always pleasant, Todd Rundgren is still an artist to be taken seriously.
-- Michael Bloom, Rolling Stone, 6-1-78.