Utopia’s Lost Treasure!
All hardcore Todd Rundgren and Utopia fans know about this album, but for the more “casual” Todd Rundgren fan, you may have missed one of Utopia’s neglected gems: a terrific collection of power pop tunes – as the band had a terrific creative run in the early 80’s before finally disbanding…
That line, paraphrased from “This Is Spinal Tap”, says it all…the cover is completely black, with an embossed title and Utopia logo…stark, and certainly darker than the great power pop inside…here’s a listen:
ca. 1983 — Members of the band Utopia from left to right: Jon Wilcox, Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, and Roger Powell. — Image by © CORBIS
All of the songs on “Oblivion” are credited as written by Utopia, a true group effort…
The album begins with “Itch in My Brain”, a power pop song that has a muscular hook, great harmonies, and a tight sound….here is an audio only live version from the band’s Japan tour in the early 90’s:
“Love with a Thinker” and “Bring Me My Longbow” are next, then a “why wasn’t this a hit single?” song:
“If I Didn’t Try”
“If I didn’t care, if I didn’t care
Sometimes I think I must be crazy for doing this
(You can never run away)
But how would I know it’s a losing cause
If I didn’t try, if I didn’t try”
“If I Didn’t Try” is a great ballad, with Todd’s strong vocals matched by great , creative musicianship around it.
I can’t find any videos at all for this gem, but here is the audio:
“Too Much Water” is next: a terrific power pop song with an infectious, calypso beat – again, I haven’t found any videos on YouTube to share, but here is the audio of a longer, dance version of the song:
“Maybe I Could Change” follows, with lead vocals by Kasim Sulton. This is another mid-tempo ballad with great harmonies.
Here is a great live version from Kasim in 2015:
Yes, A Music Video!
Finally, the album has a music video, and it’s a great one! “Crybaby” is pure power pop, an uptempo rocker that is Utopia at its power pop best.
Here is the terrific music video for the song:
“Welcome to My Revolution” and “Winston Smith Takes It on the Jaw” are next, another pair of upbeat examples of 80’s power pop.
The album wraps with a beautiful love song “I Will Wait” – with a cascading waterfall of harmonies at the end…
“Oblivion” was just that, as the album only made to to #74 on the charts, and none of the singles charted…too bad as it was, once again, great 80’s power pop!
I mentioned that the black album cover reminds me of Spinal Tap – did you know that Utopia was an inspiration for one of the funniest moments in the film?
Yes, the hilarious “broken egg” sequence in the film was inspired by an early Utopia concert! Read about it here:
Utopia had a number of great albums, including this classic:
Their second self-titled “Utopia” album was great power pop – see some music videos here:
Finally, I talk a lot about “power pop”, which was a very popular genre in the 80’s:
Todd was a master genre – here are some of my favorite Todd power pop songs:
Let me know your “Oblivion” favorites!
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One of my favorite Utopia albums.
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Agree, and so “under heard” – by then they just weren’t getting attention they deserved
You are such a loyal Todd fan, John! Great to see mention of ‘Spinal Tap’ again too.
Best wishes, Pete.
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Pete, the “Spinal Tap” scene was directly inspired by Utopia! Life imitates art!