Review by George Agnos (Switch to

A Power Pop Classic

Or it could've been had it gotten enough exposure. As Jes from XTC's Chalkhills Digest aptly wrote: "It's the best pop album you've never heard." And John M. Borack of Goldmine Magazine referred to it as "the remarkably consistent, sorely underrated UTOPIA disc" in his liner notes to Rhino Record's "POPTOPIA! Power Pop Classics of the 80's" collection. (Rhino proved his point by instead adding "Crybaby" from the OBLIVION album to their collection).

UTOPIA has everything a power pop fan could want in an album: soaring four-part harmonies, tight instrumentation, and more hooks than a Swiss army knife. Originally released as a three-sided album, it holds up from beginning to end - fifteen songs of pure bliss. Band members Kasim Sultan, Roger Powell, and Willie Wilcox are in top form in the songwriting department. But, as usual, it's Todd Rundgren who throws in a few curves with a hard rock raveup ("Hammer in My Heart") and pair of songs that show him at his soulful best ("Chapter and Verse", "I'm Looking At You But I'm Talking to Myself").

What stands out for me in particular are the lyrics. While there have been many songs about l'amour, Utopia finds a way to keep the subject fresh by using clever metaphors to convey the action:

"Bad Little Actress" uses theatrical terms to chronicle a failing relationship. "Her delivery don't come naturally/Anyone could see she doesn't mean a word she says."

"Burn Three Times" uses cooking terms to describe a relationship that may be heating up too quickly. "Call out the volunteers/Cause my heart's a flambe."

"There Goes My Inspiration" describes a lover's depression after a failed romance by using the metaphor of artist who has lost his muse. "Everybody says I'm the master of technique/But the style and the sentiment is weak."

If UTOPIA has a weakness, it is the lack of a truly transcendental Todd song such as "Love is the Answer" or "Just One Victory." This is what I think UTOPIA needed to be rated in the upper echelon of Todd Rundgren albums. But fans who like their Todd in a pop mode should consider putting away their SOMETHING/ANYTHING? and HERMIT OF MINK HOLLOW albums for awhile and discover or rediscover the pop pleasure of UTOPIA.

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