Todd Rundgren - Liars (2004)

Review by Jeff 'weavil' Gauss (Switch to

"All of these songs are about a paucity of truth. At first they may seem to be about other things, but that is just a reflection of how much dishonesty we have accepted in our daily lives. We are raised from birth to believe things that cannot be proven or that are plainly not true. People will often brag of their honesty, when there is so much they have simply chosen to ignore or leave unexamined. The fact is, we are terrified of the truth." -Todd Rundgren (in liner notes)

74 minutes
Sanctuary Records

The mantra for Todd fans has become "expect the unexpected" as one can never really predict Rundgren's next step. Some people have expressed their dislikes for several of his releases over the past decade or so as lacking an 'album feel' or a sense of togetherness and belongingness within the assembly of song order resulting in a lack of unification.

This is the release that those Todd fans have been waiting for... this is the release we all have hoped for...and it is quite possibly his most charasmatically passionate work since 1978's Hermit of Mink Hollow. Liars is cohesive and conceptual - much like his many albums that are beloved and respected the most - A Wizard, A True Star, Initiation, Healing, and No World Order. The concepts adressed on this album, of course, differ from those on these releases but the implementations are similar in nature. Liars is full of interesting musical melodies that reflect a full spectrum of tones and styles while sweeping through many diverse grooves...more than a few even hint at musical bits from his extremely rich past. It's almost as if everything he's done in the past has led up to this release...a continuing stream of consciousness continuing to unroll before our eyes. Todd's many mentions of this unfolding of his mind in the mid-seventies affirms my thoughts here. This is an honestly conceived work by a serious artist that is willing to put what he believes into words and music.

All songs brilliantly segue, except on the japanese version, to provide us with one full piece of art, a finished painting when listened to in its entirety. This is the future and this is the present. This is today in Todd's unveilings. It finds him in thought-provoking and spiritual-questioning mode, tempting our emotions at several unexpected turns, and in prime vocal condition. Although it lacks a bit in guitar, i am a guitarist so i often feel this way with many artists - especially those high screaming bent vibratto wails that i have come to associate with Rundgren's best work, the production is top-notch throughout this 74 minute epic and sweetly fills the sonic and spacial spectrums. The fresh musical approaches on this disc prove he has kept his influences as fresh as ever and, other than two guest spots, Todd plays all the instruments and provides every beautiful vocal moment.

The US/UK cover reflects the album's concepts as Todd is humorously disguised as the Easter bunny, a lie and a character invented by man, while the Japanese cover is a bit more thought-provoking, showing a "map" of a man's brain.

TRUTH properly opens the album with many bright synthesized sounds that quickly take us to an ecstacy-driven thrawling groove.

"I'm gonna find it, I'm gonna find the truth
Cause it ain't here, it's nowhere near."

The rave kicks into high gear as we ride into the high-energy bridge, "the truth is stranger than fiction."

"the truth is
This second tune is quite upbeat and happy in melody with a groove somewhat reminisent of utopia but with a bit more bounce while the bridge is full of the type of excellent harmonies Todd has become known for - "go on admit it". This is one of my favorite moments on this great disc as it's so thick in harmony that it cannot be cut, even by the sharpest of knives and it wakes up the unexpected.

Sweet leads us directly into
with its gritty industrial bassline, Lockjaw-fueled call-and-response, and Worldwide Epiphany-like melodies in points. One really begins to take note of the lyrics at this point as Rundgren puts forth challenging yet humorous statements that some might strongly disagree with, especially the chorus. The addition of a stellar old-school slide guitar from the album's first guest, Ken Emmerson on this number is very welcome.

The last note takes us to the live handclaps of a small jazz club for the setting of
another provocative statement about the soul, or the lack thereof, of man. This rare blues-based tune is simple in its ellegance and almost naked in its being - raw and unrefined, complete with a jazzy drum rhythm and an amazing flute solo provided by Garn Ian Thomasson. The wailings at the end contains some of my favorite vocal phrasings to date.

Once again we are immediately whisked away to
with its unique groove and style by a strange backwards-sounding keyboard melody almost similar (in sound and texture) to The Night The Carousel Burned Down. This is upbeat, bouncy pop with some reflective lyrics and even a laugh or two.

"And when they asked for volunteers
I must have thought they said 'drink beers'
And I stood up too fast."

The bridge is heavily-flanged ala Lennon full of sitars and backwards madness with some otherwordly vocal lines slightly buried in the mix and, thus, quite heavy in of the best bridges this cat's written in quite some time.

"I can imagine things that can't possibly exist
And then I add them to an ever-expanding list
And when I've solved every significant test there is
I'll just move on no matter how many clues I've missed."

There's also a great section that reminds one of the "when did i get so tired?" portion of the 1990 title track, 2nd wind. We turn on a dime (they all segue) as we approach the heavily gritty industrial darkness of the next envelope-pusher, full of items bound to offend. The mood gets much darker here with MAMMON as the ominous chords and strings lead us into heavy percussion and constantly changing rhythms complemented by scornful vocals like,

"And you'd like to rub their face in it
Your god, your god
Even though you have no faith in it
Your god is Mammon, your god is dead."

There's an interesting piano breakdown within this disturbing number that seems purposefully out-of-place and the closing line is bound to turn some heads. Heavy.

A swift toss lands us into the
FUTURE, full of floaty synthesizer pop ala 1982's Healing as we need to chill out after the last one (whew!). These lyrics remind one of things told while young that have not come to be with lines like,

"I'm supposed to get my eyesight back
I'm supposed to gain all things I lack
I'm supposed to live devoid of fears
I'm supposed to live, I'm supposed to live in

The future is now."

A long and repetitive chorus closes this number with Todd setting new vocal standards as he wails atop his thick harmonies. One of the easiest segues on this release moves into a melody very similar to Come As You Are, which he wrote with The Tubes, a nod to his

This beauty is full of brilliant vocal lines, incredibly thick harmonies and symphonic soul that could be the Only Human/Mated/Hawking of this album, the ballad that pulls at your heart, mind, and soul relentlessly. The gorgeous vocals all about send us to heaven for this one as the bridge with "it's all gone" takes us into ethereal cereal for the mind while we all drift away amongst the panning delays...only to be awakened by conductor Todd. Did i mention gorgeous? This is incredible stuff and one of my favorite moments on the disc for sure. Similar to the previous tune, there are wonderful vocal soul-wailings all over the end of this that remind one of Marvin Gaye, one of the greatest voices of all time.

An interestingly divine melody takes us into
full of quirps like "life is always strange", this groove almost gets us back to the opening number, Truth, re-inforcing cohesiveness within the songs themselves. This was the first tune Todd wrote for the album and stands up as a possible single due to its accessibility. The pop goodness of this flows into a barry white-style seventies soul groove with the somewhat bouncy rhythm of

We are deceptively told we are perfectly compatible except for one thing. We are told that again in the second verse...except for one thing. What is that flaw? This is one you have to hear for yourself...designed to offend or further push the album's concepts, his delivery of the flaw will floor you! The harshness of reality is diguised among sweet pop harmonies, reinforcing and reaffirming this great artist's sense of humor. Philly soul reigns on the bridge as we get sent back to the soulful pop feel of Todd's epic album, 1972's Something/Anything? Like a touchstone, this one pleases to the soul...and is capped with "my baby". Sweet, beautiful, and vocally thick as it gets this side of 1985's A Cappella.

An efficient crossfade takes us away from life on earth as we know it and to the philosphical alignments of
one of his strongest lyrical works in years and is full of more beautifully thick harmonies among thought-provoking concepts and ideas. This contains another brilliant bridge that's so heavy it can't be held -

"And they could promise me a seat
At the right side of the throne
But all would still be incomplete."

is merely the beginning as vocals soar like eagles while we realize we have not finished this test... "yes yes" Once again, too gorgeous for words.

This monumental piece then skips us into
which directly brings the concepts about again..."living a lie...with a bassline quite similar to the end of No World Order's Fever Broke with a 2nd Wind feel and changes. Finally, things get heavy as a screaming elecTRic opens us up to the howling that leads him through sanctuary and back to our hearts...killer stuff as it sets up a classical-like build with a few moments of elecTRic axe bliss. Thankfully, more guitar appears later in this great groove rocker.

We segue (once again) to a bit of a tropical land of wisdom, reminiscent of the bossa nova opening of hello it's me, and minds are opened as todd tells us what
First off, this is the most amazing and song on the album. That being said, it also contains one of the best bridges ever written - simply put,

"just get over yourself"

Once again, the Lennon/Martin influence is worn on his sleeve, production-wise, to much delight. The lyrical content almost forces one to think, once again, as godd speaks to our souls, brother.

This long and winding journey exhaustively winds up this piece of art by taking us on a miracle trip to the bazaar and we are swept away to an eastern land while the key drops and mood darkens. The eastern vocal melodies of
are delivered with conviction and desire and Fascist Christ even comes to mind as heavy guitars thankfully re-appear to blend us into another gritty industrial groove with dark yet bouncy vocals. This insane number gets even crazier in the middle as, once again, production rules as the thickness prevails to set up one of the biggest dirty guitar moments on this classic. No need for words here as the music is other-wordly enough. It is slightly difficult to catch many of the lyrics on this one as the music itself was so demanding,

"We need not the authority
Of some god of morality
Nor the aid of some skeptic land
Who puts truth before our demands
And to those who defy our law
We will bring them our shock and awe."

I feel fabulous...yet the album closes. it was a long ride that took me up and down wildly, twisted my emotions, and forced synapses to fire.

Liars made me dance and sing - laugh and cry - think and ponder - groove and hammer...

it has wrung me through the ringer and i feel satisfied and enlightened, yet beat to a pulp.

This classic piece of Todd Rundgren ranks up there with his finest works.

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