Monday, January 20, 2014

Utopia - Oblivion

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Oblivion, the ninth studio album from Utopia. It went to number 94 in Canada and number 74 on the US Billboard Album chart. The band’s line-up at this point in 1984 included Todd Rundgren (vocals and guitar), Kasim Sulton (vocals and bass), Roger Powell (vocals and keyboards) and John “Willie” Wilcox (vocals and drums).

Side one begins with “Itch in My Brain”. This mid-tempo rocker is about someone who has a difficult time dealing with having free will. The variety of the percussion on the instrumental bridge is definitely different.

On “Love with a Thinker”, a guy wonders what his very intelligent girlfriend's thoughts of him are. I like the keyboards on this one, which was released as the second single from the album.

“Bring Me My Longbow” has a dance rhythm built upon a primitive drumbeat.

“If I Didn’t Try” opens very deceptively; it goes from a very quick tempo to a much slower one. I get a real sense of moping disappointment from this one.

“Too Much Water” is definitely my favorite track on side one; it has a lot of energy. The opening guitar and percussion hook on this one makes me think of Michael Jackson's "Black or White" which came out six years after this album. The lyrics speak to those relationships that are so complicated that they have a hard time staying together.

Side two starts with “Maybe I Could Change”. I like the beautiful opening with just the piano; I would have stuck to that rather than go all synth as this one quickly does.

“Crybaby” was the first single from the album. The lyrics tell of a couple that has broken up, and it spirals down to hurt feelings and name calling.

There is almost operatic vocal that underlies the opening of the politically focused “Welcome to My Revolution”; it makes for an interesting effect.

“Winston Smith Takes It on the Jaw” is a pleasant pop-rock number that has a very 80's sound (ala the Knack or the Romantics). Winston Smith is the name of the protagonist in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“I Will Wait” closes the record on a mellower note with a song about love and persistence.

This review was, to the best of my knowledge, the first time I had heard any of the tracks on Utopia's Oblivion. I enjoyed listening to it; I did not find a bad song in the bunch and a couple really stood out among the pack. It is definitely a record I think I will revisit again some time in the future.

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