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Hermit of Mink Hollow
Todd Rundgren

Bearsville 6981
Released: May 1978
Chart Peak: #36
Weeks Charted: 26

Todd RundgrenSix years displaced in time, here is the follow-up to Something/Anything? Todd Rundgren's unalloyed pop craft motivates every moment of Hermit of Mink Hollow. While there are some concessions to modernity -- the synthesizers that thicken a few Phil Spector-like productions, a lavish use of the shivery suspended chords Rundgren's always loved (but that Steely Dan made commercial) -- Hermit of Mink Hollow's dozen songs all stem from the universal library of luminous pop enjoyment that this curious artist carries around in his head. They condense the whole world into a three-minute capsule and promise eternal youth. They know the rules so well that it's almost a joy to conform.

Todd Rundgren - Hermit of Mink Hollow
Original album ad art.
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Rundgren understands pop as a vehicle of genuine communication perhaps better than anyone: he never trifles and rarely gets silly. Hardly the "gloriously cheap displays of human emotion" that rock writer Cameron Crowe once claimed of Something/Anything?, these pieces are concise but careful observations of anything Rundgren confronts. He offers a couple of conventional love songs, but be careful: "All the Children Sing," which begins as such, soon expands into an analysis of Rundgren's reputation as a utopian philosopher and guru. "Too Far Gone" sympathetically depicts his family and friends passing judgement on his quirky career.

These examples are all on "The Easy Side," where the pitches tend to be higher and the subjects less severe. "The Difficult Side" is difficult only because the emotions are purer and more wrenching. "Bread" is a protest song, but it doesn't preach. The protagonists -- people in this country who are starving -- tell their own story and bite their own bullets as the energetic, minor-key music builds from Byrds-like angularity to full roar. "Bag Lady" is quite subtle and absolutely chilling: sprung rhythms and inconclusive, airy chords paint the portrait of an old, tattered subway denizen until "One day it gets a bit too cold/ Maybe a bit too wet, maybe a little too lonely/ Lifelessly she lies amidst her bag world/ But maybe she's only sleeping." Neither simple nor always pleasant, Todd Rundgren is still an artist to be taken seriously.

- Michael Bloom, Rolling Stone, 6/1/78.

Bonus Reviews!

It's been a while since anyone worked so hard to make such a bad album as this. Todd Rundgren apparently did everything: wrote all the songs, played all the instruments, dubbed all the voices, and, of course, did his customary plastic-coated Phil Spector number on the production. Some of the songs could be interesting if they weren't so overarranged. "Bread," for example, has Rundgren the writer completely undone by Rundgren the arranger. The overall effect is that of prolonged, vaguely melodic noise. It actually gives me a headache if I crank the machine up too loud. But that's not what bothers me most about it. What bothers me most is the idea that someone would go to such trouble to run off such a piece of junk. People have turned out albums almost as unpleasant with a tenth of the effort, which seems more in touch with the times, what with the energy shortage and all.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 8/78.

Rundgren not only produced this album, he also composed and arranged all the songs, plays all the instruments and does all the vocals. He divides the album into "the easy side" and "the difficult side," placing a couple hard rockers on the second side, and more melodic midtempo rock numbers on side one. The most clever and outrageous cut is "Onomatopoeia," an ode to about 60 words which sound like what they represent. Best cuts: "All The Children Sing," "Can We Still Be Friends," "Fade Away," "Hurting For You," "Bread."

- Billboard, 1978.

By the release of this album, Rundgren had ditched the homemade charm of Something/Anything? for a warbly hard rock/pop sound. Tracks like "Determination," "Out of Control," "You Cried Wolf," and "Fade Away" best exemplify that approach. "Can We Still Be Friends?" became a number 29 hit. * * * *

- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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