Todd Rundgren - Liars
There are but a few things I know about Todd Rundgren...(1) he produced Bat Out Of Hell; (2) he released a multimedia project, No World Order, on CD and CD-ROM using the name TR-i and (3) there's an photograph taken during the seventies whilst he was onstage and from the way he was standing and the angle of the photograph, it looked as though a cobra had found a home in Rundgren's trousers without his noticing.
Of course, saying all of this is comparable to knowing only that Jimmy Page did a little bit of session work, wore spangly trousers and once recorded an album with David Coverdale as Rundgren has had a long and varied career that has seen him producing not only Meat Loaf but also US punk, British new wave and white soul as well as recording a series of solo albums and pioneering the sell-through of music videos, enhanced CD's and Videodisc, of which TR-i was only a small part.
For this album, however, Rundgren goes back to nothing more than the recording of music tied around the concept of truth, reinforced by the cover image of Rundgren dressed as the Easter Bunny. Whilst this concept remains loose throughout, the lyrics skip over a series of lies from - yes! - the absence soul in r'n'b to the bright, shining future that disappeared as quickly as the days passed. With Rundgren skipping over the risk of sounding no more than an irascible old man - unlike the Timothy West character in the BBC's occasional Bedtime, he just avoids saying that the wearing of a hooded top is an admission of guilt - he employs a supple soul, more Marvin Gaye than Stax, to sound almost contemporary but with a bitter cynicism that seeps through the lyrics.
Taking the opening track, Truth, Rundgren uses dance rhythms and keyboards behind a lyric that, like Talking Heads' dismissing of facts on Crosseyed And Painless, states, "The truth is not easily handled / The truth is not here". Imagining one of Rundgren's contemporaries handling the writing of the music for truth, not to mention the technology, would be a leap too daunting for most of us but not only on this track but throughout Liars, Rundgren shows off the same playful approach to technology that led him to do such things as invent The Utopia Graphics Tablet, sold to Apple in 1980 if you're interested. Otherwise, Happy Anniversary, despite all that's wrong with the verse, has a terrific, plastic-soul chorus and a fat, chunky bridge that Rundgren throws a distorted guitar into before pulling the song back to a chorus with an, "Aawww, here we go again!" With Stood Up being a beautiful cyclical piano riff and Mammon being a charging, Gothic rant that, like The Sisters Of Mercy's This Corrosion, has Rundgren's take on Andrew Eldritch put against a choir.
Liars is never entirely successful - Future outstays its welcome soon after it arrives on the stereo and despite agreeing with the sentiment, Soul Brother's music drags the lyrics too far from their target - but more often than not, Liars is a success, particularly as Rundgren uses the album to both find and put space to put between the two songs that bookend the album, from the electronica of one to the white noise of the other. If there's the occasional stumble on the twelve tracks between these two songs and a song like Happy Anniversary shows off both what is good and bad about the album in a few minutes, Liars has the same sense of adventure across its fourteen songs as Rundgren has shown throughout his career and which, given Rundgren's dressing as the Easter Bunny on the cover of this album - pyjamas, fluffy ears and eating an egg - he continues to revel in.