Todd Rundgren knows a thing or two about making mixed-bag albums – but he also knows that if you keep experimenting and collaborating you find magic. And there’s plenty of good stuff here on White Knight, an album of profound and perplexing collaborations that very much vacillates from the sublime (Deaf Ears featuring Todd with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) to the ridiculous (This Is Not A Drill with Joe Satriani, which, only ever manages to sound about as musical as a drill).
The best stuff here is as good as Runt has been – Naked & Afraid with Bettye LaVette is a new R’n’B banger, Tin Foil Hat with Donald Fagen is a fun skewering of the current sitting U.S. President (easy meat, sure) and I Got Your Back with Kkwatson and Dam-Funk shows that Todd can stretch beyond the obvious hook-ups with his mates.
The overall tone is reminiscent of Liars which I consider one of the last great (possibly essential) Todd albums. And though there is plenty of obviously-going-to-work/obviously-does material here – such as Chance for Us with Daryl Hall and Bobby Strickland it’s the more intriguing collaborations that mean the most, such as Robyn going full Cyndi Lauper on That Could Have Been Me or Michael Holman sending Rundgren down a surprising – terrific – Beastie Boys-like wormhole.
White Knight doesn’t hit it out of the park completely, but it comes about as close as Rundgren has in many years. It’s intriguing. And that’s usually enough for his fans. And it’s far from embarrassing. Which is, frankly, a nice surprise. In fact, that’s the best way to describe the best material and collaborations here: nice surprises.
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