No World Order

Todd Rundgren

Forward Records, 1993

http://http://www.tr-i.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/07/1998

Fans of eclectic rock artiste Todd Rundgren freely admit that his changing musical directions occasionally throw them for a loop. Rundgren is one of the only musicians who openly challenges the listener to open their musical horizons and travel the road according to his rules.

But the negative press I've read for Rundgren's 1993 experimental album No World Order has shocked me. The prestigious All-Music Guide has rated this disc as "Poor." Even my aunt, a self-professed drooling Rundgren fan, said as she threw a copy of this disc into my hands, "You're gonna hate it."

But while No World Order is indeed a different direction for Rundgren, it's not radically different from other roads he's taken on his career - and the end result is actually a very good album.

Maybe what turned some people off of this one was "hip-hop Todd" - Rundgren indulges in a few raps on No World Order. Maybe it was the more electronic, dare I say even industrial, tone to the music. Maybe it was the advanced technology of the album; if you bought the interactive CD, you could shape the music into whatever format you wanted to. (I have the PC version of this, released around the same time by Electronic Arts, though I haven't spent a lot of time playing with it yet. One word of caution: if you run it on Windows 95, don't make changes as the disc is playing, or your system will freeze.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The fact is, Rundgren does experiment a little bit with industrial and rap on No World Order, and these experiments are rather successful. "Day Job" is a decent enough song, and "Fascist Christ," whose meaning I still have yet to grasp, is a delightful curve ball that Rundgren throws at the listener.

As much as I enjoyed the title track and "Worldwide Epiphany," though, I almost would have preferred that Rundgren not broken the track up throughout the album. I am left to wonder how the tracks as a whole would have sounded. On the other hand, I will admit it was kind of nice to hear the snippets from time to time.

In one sense, what Rundgren recorded for No World Order was not radically different from his two releases from around that time, Nearly Human and 2nd Wind. "Property" is classic Rundgren power-pop, as is "Love Thing" and another split song, "Time Stood Still". They may not rank among the greats like the hits from Something / Anything?, but they hold up well on their own.

So why is No World Order looked upon with such disdain by other critics? Maybe it was because, like he has been most of his career, Rundgren was ahead of his time, and we just weren't ready for his vision. But if we think about it, the ability to remix his songs is nothing that different from what is done to the hits today, where we can hear radically different versions of songs from artists like Mariah Carey. The difference here was that not only did Rundgren encourage the changes, he helps you make them.

The only real weakness I have noticed with No World Order is that some of the songs don't hold up as well over repeated listenings, and it is a little bit of a challenge to stay focused throughout the whole disc. I'm not positive what could have been done to rectify this, if anything - for that matter, I seem to recall having similar problems getting through 2nd Wind some years ago, so maybe it was just the musical style Rundgren had settled into, and not this particular album. (To be fair, I'll eventually get to 2nd Wind again and review it here.)

No World Order may well be the most maligned album of Rundgren's vast discography, and it is a reputation that is not fair to label it with. It may not rank among the best, but it is an enjoyable enough listen - provided you are willing to let Rundgren drive.

Author's Note: The disc I reviewed was the original release of No World Order ; as it appears to be off the market, the cover art and Music Boulevard link are for No World Order Lite . According to those who reponded to a question I asked in alt.music.todd-rundgren , the only difference is the newer version lets the songs fade out; the original version has all the tracks segue into each other. Thanks to all who took the time to help clear this up for me.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Forward Records, and is used for informational purposes only.