Review: Todd Rundgren Typifies the Notion of a True Musical Chameleon on ‘Space Force’


Videos by American Songwriter

Todd Rundgren typifies the notion of a true musical chameleon, having never been content to rest on his laurels or remain constant in any of his musical pursuits. In a career that dates back to the mid-’60s, he’s never failed to explore new terrain and breach any and all boundaries when it comes to his pursuit of ambition and experimentation. A pioneer in the world of music videos, a well-respected producer, and an avant-garde auteur that pioneered prog rock via his band Utopia, he can also claim any number of pop standards that have imbued an enduring impression on the rock world in general. 

His new album, Space Force, marks another major leap forward in his trajectory, a melodic set of songs that veer towards a sound of a decidedly cosmic variety. Rundgren enlists an all-star cast of collaborators, both young and old—The Roots, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, The Lemon Twigs, Sparks, Steve Vai, rapper Narcy, Neil Finn (Crowded House, Fleetwood Mac), and Thomas Dolby among them —and ensures ongoing fascination in the process. The opening track “Puzzle” offers a shimmer and shine typical of his early work. “Down with the Ship” boasts a reggae rhythm and a playful spoken interlude that reflects typical Rundgren whimsy. Likewise, “Artist In Residence” coasts on a cool groove, emphasizing the accessibility factor as prime importance. “Your Fandango” and “I’m Leaving” share a similar sentiment, with Rundgren’s emotive vocals shining front and center.

Given the fact that this is Rundgren’s first album in five years, Space Force is nothing less than a welcome return, and likely an offering that will rank high in his classic catalog. Granted, like most offerings within the Todd tapestry, there are some odd sojourns—“Your Fandango,” “Espionage,” the raucous “STFU,” and “I’m Not Your Dog,” among them—but taken in tandem, these songs show that his imaginative musings remain in full flourish. Consider this real Rundgren, true Todd, and both a pleasure and treasure at that. 

Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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