Picks and Pans Review: Nearly Human

updated 11/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Todd Rundgren

This is the type of diffident effort that in past years Rundgren would have palmed off on Utopia. That was the name of the band he kept in the wings for his more experimental musical creations. The pop-rock wizard saved his best material for his own solo releases. Not this time.

Not even the Northern California connection—Rundgren is accompanied by members of the Tubes and Bourgeois Tagg—can breathe life into this hammy collection. "Parallel Lines" is a self-important little singsong, "I Love My Life" a painfully awkward swipe at gospel. "The Waiting Game" is a failed attempt at the type of sweet, air-whipped pop confection the Spinners did so well. "Feel It" might be a track Leonard Bernstein wisely left out of West Side Story. (Maybe it's one Rundgren decided to leave off his upcoming score for the Joe Papp production of the Joe Orton musical Up Against It.) "Can't Stop Running" is a cut above the others, but even so it's strictly minor Todd. The only song that might hold you in sway is "The Want of a Nail," but it's still most memorable for wasting guest vocalist Bobby Womack. The bonus track on CD and cassette is a notably uninspired cover of Elvis Costello's "Little Hitler."

Ah, well, at least Todd's in good voice on the pop lament "Fidelity," sounding in his spry delivery like Daryl Hall. The ungainliness of Nearly Human is brought into bold relief by the recent double anthology of choice Rundgren issued by Rhino records. That collection proves Todd is one of popular music's more adventurous souls. The new record only proves he can be foolhardy as well. (Warner Bros.)

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