One of the coolest parts of writing for Music Guide is the opportunity to review music by my favorite artists. I’m not a critic unless I’m badgered into it. If I listen to something that I don’t care for, I don’t write about it, simple as that. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, for me it’s all about giving exposure to music I believe is exceptional. But writing about Todd is a pure joy! He’s been one of my favorites since “Hello, It’s Me” hit the airwaves. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him in concert twice. Once with his band Utopia at the opening of the “Ra!” tour and again two years ago at The Oneonta Theater, which I reviewed on these pages. I’m about to spin State for the first time and share my thoughts on it with you. Here we go!State is a one-man-band project like so many other of Todd’s works, ten tracks that reflect industrial and contemporary electronic elements. This is his 24th solo release and it’s touted as a fusion of rock, soul, R&B and electronica.
Todd sets an immediate electronica tone with a sequencer running to open “Imagination”, then lays down a little “War Pigs” crunch line. I’m not sure if it’s a vocodor or just effects on the vocals, but the echo element emphasizes the topic, or lack thereof. It’s like the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, or is it two devils? They push and prod against each other in an almost tug of war right up to the first solo which is quintessential Todd. Exposing an inner battle in song, “I am what I am, that’s all that I am. Same old situation. No imagination. I tell myself.”
Bordering on trip-hop with a twist of Todd mayhem. He said he listened to Skillrex, interesting and a bit alarming! “Serious” feels like a mix of 80’s elements from fuzz-tone funk bass to chorus-like synth flourishes right down to the R&B influenced vocals. A total switch of the gears, just like you’d expect from him, it’s like Was Not Was on steroids. He keeps the sequencer rolling on “In My Mouth”, accompanied by electronic drums and processed vocals. Sounding something like a musical therapy session, perhaps describing words on the tip of his tongue that he can’t release.
“Ping Me” reflects the modes of communication we use today as much as how we diagnose a interpersonal problem described as a technical problem. The inability to express feelings that has been exasperated through our use of the internet medium. Just send a signal and I’ll know you’ve heard me, but did you really? The electronic funk feel rolls on through “Angry Bird”. It’s like he’s playing the game to describe the ebb and flow, lose a life, gain a trophy, re-charge, start over, pretty much a relationship video game soundtrack. “Smoke” has all of the elements of a New Order collides with Todd’s signature R&B/blue-eyed soul feel. He often plays an under-lying sexual tone expressed through analogy. He remains oblique enough to allow the listener their own definition, truly one of the most difficult of songwriting pieces.
“Collide-A-Scope” gets heavy on the electronica in a stream of thought lyric. As if he’s spinning the wheel on a kaleidoscope of his emotions, again the analogy-like exposition of feelings through an electronic medium. The real heart trying to be heard, but washed under a tide of programming and lack of ability to communicate. The metronome-like percussion of “Something From Nothing” gives a machine voice to a clock left hanging on a wall in a deserted town. Hanging onto hope, which equates to nothing more than a nail on a wall, expressed as faith, which ends up being nothing. “Party Liquor” is a full-force shot at the whole dj dance-hall scene. Exposing the vacuousness and soulless nature of the genre. It’s remarkable that all of these sounds were created with one guitar and a laptop, but that’s surely the shape of music today. The difference is these things are used by a brilliant musician, not a kid using Garage Band. The lyric suggests how easy it all is when you’re in the right place at the right time. Pure misogyny. The closer, “Sir Reality” reduces the real to the ridiculous in a simplification of what actually is, a Wizard of Oz-like opus of belief. Believe what I tell you is real, not what you actually feel. Pure Todd.
There is also a 2 CD limited edition of State which features a recent concert on Disc 2. Much like every other Todd album I’ve heard, this one is highly recommended as his constant evolution as a writer and musician are in full force here. Don’t forget, he plays every instrument, sings every vocal, engineers and produces this work. Don’t try this at home, trustafarians.
Todd will be touring in support of “State” beginning at The Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY for an “Official State Visit” on May 5th and 6th.
3. In My Mouth
4. Ping Me
5. Angry Bird
8. Something From Nothing
9. Party Liquor
10. Sir Reality