Amid a growing profusion of lightweight pop practitioners, one latter-day exponent of self-conscious pop stands out on the American scene: Todd Rundgren. A gifted studio technician and producer, he is also a resourceful composer and inventive plagiarist; in many ways, Rundgren is the Seventies' journeyman pop stylist.
"I Saw the Light", "Hello, It's Me" and, from the new LP, "A Dream Goes on Forever" all show his knack for churning out whimsical but effervescent formula tunes. And his lyrical preoccupations have helped give him personal style: He has successfully nurtured a melodramatist's flair for milking adolescent romances, wallowing in self-pity.
Musically, Rundgren's several solo albums have specialized in quoting the right sources, from Laura Nyro to Stevie Wonder. On both Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, a tour de force, and the more uneven Something/Anything?, he proved himself a capable composer. And although his frail, reedy voice is weak, his production skills compensate: He mixes, overdubs and sweetens tracks like a true wizard.
In recent interviews, meastro Rundgren has grandiloquently announced that his work has moved from emotion to mind: "Once I got my emotions under control, I was able to recognize spiritual influences which could raise my consciousness. I don't want to respond to coarser vibrations". Unfortunately, apart from the welter of electronic gimmickry, the casual listener might not notice the change in Todd's (spiritual) vistas.
Todd generally sticks to familiar Rundgren fare, particularly on its more successful tracks (such as the relatively concise "The Last Ride" and "Izzat Love?"), but even familiar Rundgrenesque entries suffer in comparison with earlier efforts. This may be his idea of space-age pop, or his foray into psychedelic bubblegum. Unfortunately, when self-conscious pop becomes self-indulgent, it loses its sense of balance, and becomes either boring or offensive. Todd, at various points, manages to be both.
-- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 6-20-74.