There are many titles in an artist’s back catalogue that they must dearly wish could be expunged from history.
I’m sure David Bowie would love ‘The laughing gnome’ to be wiped from the face of the earth. I’m not sure Randy Newman goes to bed every night considering ‘Simon Smith and the amazing dancing bear’ to be his own personal musical high point. I’m pretty certain Robbie Williams would love to forget ‘Rudebox’ (I’d quite like all of his other stuff to disappear too if that’s ok with you, but it would seriously deplete the stock of many charity shops if this were to come to pass). And of course, for some inexplicable reason, David Sylvian would be happy if we’d all forget he was ever in Japan (the group, not the country).
Our cassette subject today is one that the artist himself doesn’t consider one of his best. Appropriately titled ‘The ever popular tortured artist effect’, Todd Rundgren recorded this album to fulfil a contractual obligation (how often have we all done that!). Of course, Sod’s Law being what it is, it turned out to be one of his most popular and a pop album in the good old-fashioned mould (ie just over half an hour long and no more than ten tracks)..
It’s a bone-crunchingly good album but at the same time it feels undeniably ‘cobbled together’.
For some reason the two sides of my cassette have been transposed, so what feels like it should be side 1 is actually side 2 and vice versa (obviously!).For that reason I’ve always thought that the most commercial tracks here are the album’s openers when in actual fact they open side 2. You didn’t really need to know that though.
There’s a great version of Small Faces’ classic ‘Tin Soldier’ and one of Todd’s best known songs, the brainless (and I mean that as a compliment) ‘Bang on the drum all day’, a less than subtle hymn to forgetting about spending the day doing what you have to do and instead spending the day doing what you want to do.
There are some brilliant, if slightly ‘slight’ classic power-pop tunes here too and you can feel the influence here that manifested itself on some of XTC’s classic albums. All being considered though, my favourite track is the overblown ‘Emperor of the highway’ – pitched about halfway between Sparks (who Todd produced in an early guise) and Gilbert and Sullivan. That this is my favourite probably tells you more about me than I would care to reveal in learned company. Very strange, very wonderful, very silly, fairly short. The track, not me, although come to think of it!
And doesn’t Todd look just like ‘our Liam’ on the insert/cover?
Label – Lamborghini Records (although I’m not sure why because it should really be on Bearsville)
Year – 1982