This is the best track on Todd Rundgren’s new album, “White Knight.” But if I didn’t tell you that, you’d think it’s a new Steely Dan cut, and the irony is it’s better than anything Steely Dan has done since 1980, it could use a few more changes, but it’s got that soulful jazz attitude that Donald Fagen specializes in and if you lived through the transition from “Reelin’ In The Years” to “Aja” you’ll find yourself nodding your head, hear it twice and you want to hear it again and again and again.
How did we get here?
Todd Rundgren was too talented for his own good, he could throw off three minute pop songs, hit ditties, seemingly at will, so he stopped. It’d kinda be like Michael Jordan deciding to give up basketball for basebalL..hell, that HAPPENED!
And if you’re part of the club, you believe Todd is God, but most people tuned out after “Hello It’s Me” and maybe know “Can We Still Be Friends,” but the Philly native is seen as a has-been in the rearview mirror, the only problem is TR is a punk in the classic sense, he refuses to be categorized, he doesn’t care if he pisses off his hard core, he’s got to continue to follow his muse and test limits, go deep into electronic music, even though he’s got no chance of breaking through. And he’s not warm and fuzzy, as anybody who’s ever come in personal contact with him knows. Study your rock history and you come across barbs not so veiled, like those of Andy Partridge of XTC, who believes Rundgren ruined “Skylarking” when the truth is Todd’s the one who made it great, I heard “Earn Enough For Us” on Sirius yesterday and I was MESMERIZED!
But that’s the problem with talented artists, they’re arrogant, they want to do it their way, and now more than ever we venerate those who know how to smooth down their rough edges and get along, but that’s not Rundgren.
And if you give Todd some cash, he’ll make you an album. But there’s been an endless string of curios and throwaways. Have you heard “Todd Rundgren’s Johnson”? And now comes “White Knight.”
The advance single was “That Could Have Been Me,” featuring Robyn, that’s right, Todd doesn’t vocalize on all the cuts, he’s got guest stars, and no one is as cynical as a record label, no wonder they went with the track featuring a young ‘un, but the winner, the one that penetrates your brain and sticks to your ribs, is “Tin Foil Hat.”
Now like the greatest protest songs, the best social commentary, “Tin Foil Hat” works as music irrelevant of the lyrics. Granted it sounds like nothing on the airwaves today, it’s slick where those cuts are rough, it’s got melody where those tracks are all beats, but it goes down smooth, like a milkshake.
And you catch snippets the first time through, the second, about putting the “pluto” in “plutocrat,” believe it’s an indictment of the ruling class, and then you realize “Tin Foil Hat” is all about TRUMP!
Funny world we live in, the youngsters have all bought in, they don’t want to upset the apple cart, whereas the oldsters, at least those still plying the boards, they’re willing to speak truth, it’s in their DNA.
He’s coming down the escalator
With a girl from east of here
They’re talking about Melania, who if you do a bit of research you will find looks nothing like the woman born there, she’s had so much plastic surgery it’s jaw-dropping, if you doubt me just go here:
But that’s the world we live in, one of image, one of lies, like Agent Orange is gonna save the working class, that’s right, while he gives tax cuts to the rich and Carrier cuts those jobs anyway.
He wants to make the country greater
We’ve got nothing to fear
Other than Angela Merkel leaving us in the rearview mirror, knowing she can’t depend upon us anymore, read David Frum in the “Atlantic,” the right winger who was excommunicated for having a brain:
Because the man in the tin foil hat
Is sitting on the throne tonight
It kinda feels like a coup d’etat
But it’s gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that
The funny thing is just repeating Trump’s own words makes you smile, laugh. And the papers say the same damn thing but it has no impact, but music crosses borders, put this on radio stations and it would subliminally change minds, but there’s nowhere for this on Active Rock and AOR is all oldies and where are you gonna get exposure?
‘Cause the man in the tin foil hat
Is tweeting like a teenage girl
He puts the pluto in plutocrat
It’s gonna be a yuge yuge yuge new world
This is the kind of stuff that bonded us to the artists of yore, speaking truth, being subversive and not caring about the consequences. But the consequences were the more they were true to themselves the bigger they became, the more impact they had.
And there’s a video I don’t recommend, because “Tin Foil Hat” plays better in your head, when the lyrics marinate and slowly penetrate, line by line, as the music keeps you going. Like it used to be. But if you want to check out the visuals, go here:
So what have we learned here?
That there’s HOPE!
There’s something in the air, and it only takes one artist, one record, to make a difference.
This is just the beginning, but unlike all the other faux protest songs in the wake of the election this one makes it as MUSIC!
And it makes sense it comes from Rundgren, who could bring Grand Funk to the top of the chart, but he’s the one who’s truly an American Band, however self-contained.
One of these classic rock artists is gonna step out of the shed and cut a track so hot it’s undeniable. They’re operating off the radar screen, they’ve got less to lose, and they have the instincts, the history, they were there when music was the hottest medium in the world, when one song could move mountains.
You say you wanna revolution?
LISTEN TO THIS!