Review by Brian Smith (Switch to

"Runt" is probably one of my least favorite Todd albums, and, for better AND for worse, it is also emblematic of Todd's career. Think of Todd as the gangly and ambitious forward on your favorite basketball team. (Not too big of a stretch, really...) His forte is that lurching one-handed slamdunk from 10 feet back. It brings the crowd to its feet every time ("Ballad", "S/A?", "Hermit", "NH"). But it comes TOO easy. And he figures people would get sick of him if that was ALL he ever did. He's a sureshot with a layup, but, though it gets the job done, it's really nothing special ("TEPTAE", "TI"). So, to push himself, he takes that outside shot every now and then, much to the chagrin of his coach and fans. Sometimes he hits the rim ("Initiation"), sometimes he throws up an airball ("NWO", "RA"). But on a rare occasion, he takes a desperation shot from mid-court and gets NOTHING but the net ("Wizard", "Healing"). Whew!

All of Todd's haphazard tendencies are on display for his debut. He frequently overreaches-- though "Devil's Bite" has an undeniable groove, his callow vocals are an almost comical mismatch. (Of course, Todd would NAIL this song if he did it now...) The "boogie" aspirations of "Who's That Man?" are also quite beyond him. But he makes magic with low-key numbers like "We Gotta Get You a Woman" and "Believe in Me". And it's a minor tragedy that "The Last Thing You Said" was truncated to fit into the medley. It could have and SHOULD have been a hit-- an observation that has become a nagging truism in Todd's career. The keeper from this record, though, is "There Are No Words". It is a sly and breathtaking preview for the orchestral intro/outro of "Birthday Carol", and it is a wonderful homage to Todd's harmonizing forefathers, the Beach Boys, as well.

It also serves as a perfect example of the compromise (or synthesis) between the obvious and the less obvious that characterizes much of Todd's best work. It's got georgous, easy-to-love harmonies, sure, but it's also a wordless and mournful composition smack dab in the middle of a fairly SONG-oriented album. Without Todd's adventurous streak, "There Are No Words" would not exist. Yes, the album would be more consistent if Todd wasn't so damn restless. But the qualities that make him so frustrating are also what make him so fascinating, enduring, AND endearing. That's "Runt"; and in a nutshell, that's Todd, too.

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