"Arena" (MPCA; 2008)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

The career of Todd Rundgren has certainly had some highs and lows creatively, with the majority of the highs having occurred some time ago. On this, his 19th studio album, Rundgren said it would be a return to “riff-oriented guitar rock” and that’s sort of true. This is generally a rock album, but it’s a moderately wide range of styles and results. We get some 1980s style pop-oriented rock, some hard rock and some songs that surprisingly even flirt with being metal if you can imagine that. 

I am all for changing the pace and mixing things up, but the overall feel of this album is a bit awkward. More than anything the success of each song seems to depend a lot on how comfortable Rundgren sounds. Quite honestly it’s the heavier tracks that ultimately suffer here as saying the vocals sound “forced’ on most of the heavier tracks is a vast understatement. Many of the lighter tracks are perhaps rather safe, but the vocals compliment the music to a far greater extent. 

I had just about written this off as a mediocre album at best, but then the final three tracks “Mountaintop,” “Panic” and “Manup” all show a sense of purpose and control that was lacking on the previous ten tracks. It’s still a rather average album as a whole, but those last tracks are certainly worth checking out.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03 Jun 2024 13:03:50 -0400 .