on May 14, 2001
A terrific Beatles send-up that still manages to be an entertain listen on its own. Todd lovingly recreates the signature sound from different periods and adds funny, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Making fun of the Beatles? Grow up! No one goes to this much trouble without having studied and loved the original records. But hey, irony isn't for everyone.
It's as if one or two cuts from each Beatles album had been found in a studio closet. This is imitation of the highest order-- there's no doubt who's being imitated here, yet each of these songs stands very nicely on its own merits, with nifty pop hooks galore. "Chronologically" arranged as well, so you can hear the developing sound.
on September 30, 1998
Todd Rundgren and Utopia's 1980 release is an album written and recorded in the style of The Beatles circa 1964-1967. Instead of re-recording songs by The Beatles (which, as the ensuing years have shown, provided us with countless insipid "tribute" albums to a vast array of artists), Utopia brilliantly recreates the songwriting style and recording production of the four lads from Liverpool. Utopia, while doing this album as a lark, winds up creating one of their most rewarding albums in their rich catalog. From the 1964-sounding "I just want to touch you" to the psychedelic masterpiece "Everybody else is wrong," Utopia delights the listener with their impressive knowledge of all things fab! "Take it home," "All smiles," and "Feel too good" are also highlights on this magnificent album.
on September 21, 2000
This is definitely one of Todd Rundgren and Utopia's BEST and most entertaining albums. It works on a couple of different levels. Critics have long pointed out that alot of Rundgren's work is, quote, "Beatle-esque"...which simply means that he excels at producing imaginative, catchy, well-constructed pop-rock songs. On this disc, he has taken that style one step further, deliberately paying tribute to the Fab Four by molding each song in the disctinct styles that The Beatles moved through during their evolution, from garage-rock rowdiness of their early days to the psychedelic frills that marked their final days.
Besides being a great power-pop album, it's loads of fun identifying the references that Todd and his bandmates sprinkle throughout each tune.
Some reviewers here seem to be taking this CD WAY too seriously. It's not a slam on The Beatles, but an original tribute, and while not as purely silly as The Rutles was, it's still meant to be nothing but pure fun.
on November 10, 2000
Good CD. Todd offers up tunes that sound Beatlesque in formula, but would probably have been given to Peter and Gordon to record instead of by the Beatles themselves. ("World Without Love," style). The Beatles knew the good songs from the very good songs, and gave away a number of hit singles because they were too syrupy, bublegum, etc. It is this sub-category of the Lennon/McCartney catalog that "Deface The Music" sounds most like to my ears. The album picks up speed from "Take it Home" on through to the end though, which leads me to believe that the album should not be seen as an attack against the Beatles (as some reviewers have seen it), but as a valiant yet somewhat flawed attempt to recreate the Beatle magic that has had such an obvious influence on Rundgren's music.
Imitation is a very sincere form of flatery, isn't it?
on July 14, 2000
Todd fans either love or hate this album. I love it. The songs are top-quality Beatles takeoffs, but in a serious vein than the Rutles. These aren't parodies, like the Rutles songs were. Silly Boy is great, as is Alone, Crystal Ball, I Just Want to Touch You and so on.
While no one can ever really know Todd Rundgren's true motives for doing anything (he's as inscrutable as Frank Zappa), "Deface the Music" comes across as an affectionate tribute to the sound of mid-1960s Beatlemania. It's a fairly obscure album that some people compare to the Rutles but, to me, this is a different flavor of Beatleoid music. With the Rutles, part of the fun is picking apart the songs to see what Beatles song Neil Innes is parodying. With Utopia, on the other hand, it almost sounds as if Rundgren is playing a game in which he's constructing songs that sound close enough to the Beatles to fool you, but not so close that they sound like rewrites. There are many tips of the hat to specific songs through arrangements and production techniques, but direct musical quotes are few and far between. These are songs which you would automatically accept as being by the Beatles if you heard them on a soundtrack of a movie, but you wouldn't necessarily feel as though they were carbon copies. You'd half expect some of these to have turned up on the "Anthology" collection as Beatles outtakes. Others, however, are far less convincing forgeries.
"Alone" and "That's Not Right" are two of the highest points on the album. They push this up to a 4-star review for me.
The Merseybeat material (in essence the first half of the album) is much better than the psychedelic stuff because the obvious string machines on "Life Goes On" and the synths elsewhere stand out as inauthentic within the context of late-1960s music. Neil Innes ran into a similar problem with the Rutles - his heart just did not seem to be in the latter-day material. In this particular case, I was surprised because Rundgren's tenure with the Nazz showed that he certainly knew how to whip out convincing psychedelic when needed. If you're looking for better psychedelic pastiches, turn to XTC's "Chips from the Chocolate Fireball."
If you're not a diehard Beatlemaniac, you'll want to invert my rating of 4 stars to 1 star. Regardless, I'd much rather listen to a genuine tribute album like this one than an album of ill-conceived, lackluster and unnecessary cover versions.
on August 18, 2014
The terms 'underrated' and 'overlooked' get thrown around in music circles far too much. So let me join that group of abusers; albeit with a legitimate reason. Utopia's 1980 gem of an album Deface The Music is both underrated AND overlooked, much like Utopia. In all honesty Utopia's records were spotty affairs, usually a third of the songs per album were great, a third were decent and a third were bordering on awful. For that reason their greatest hits compilation is truly essential. However, Deface The Music is equally essential.
What we get here are 13 tracks that are purposely meant to sound exactly like The Beatles, albeit at different points in their career. "I Just Want to Touch You" was the impetus of the project, and the only song that could be called somewhat known, and it literally sounds like pure 1963 Beatles bliss. The story goes that Todd Rundgren, leader and main writer of Utopia, wrote the song for a soundtrack and it was rejected because people feared they would get sued for putting a song out that sounded too much like The Beatles.
Thankfully no one got sued, and thankfully Todd kept going with his idea. Sure, on the surface this is a parody and there is a lot here to laugh about, both lyrically and musically. But more than anything what we get are 13 consistenly good, fun tracks that evoke memories of Beatles songs which is also fun trying to figure out what song or era Todd was going for.
The music contained isn't necessarily always brilliant, but the idea and execution are. Truly overlooked, truly underrated.
on July 30, 2005
By 1980 Utopia & Todd were disgusted with their relationship with Bearsville Records (who weren't promoting them much outside of FM radio and Todd's fans) and wanted out of their contract. So to quickly take care of another "Contractual Obligation" they quickly whipped up this album of Beatles sound-a-likes. I'd love to see the faces of the record company executives when they heard the album for the first time!
I remember this LP getting a lot of bad and negative reviews at the time. It had the unfortunate bad timing of being released after John Lennon was killed. One ignorant critic said they were aping The Knack this time around. But I loved it. It was meant not only as a record company screwjob but like the Rutles it was also to poke fun of and downplay the Beatles critical importance in history as "Rock Gods". ("We were just a BAND" - John Lennon)
But this album is far better than the Rutles simple re-writes of Beatles classics. Deface's songs are better written and super-loaded with killer hooks (its also fun to guess "what song is it really?"). Todd's engineering work, which apes George Martin's classic Abbey Road 4-track productions is always stellar.
Instead of sidelong synth progressive rock as the early Utopia, or AOR rock on "Oops Wrong Planet" and "Adventures in Utopia" did, this album was the beginning of the re-invention of Utopia as a smart Power Pop group - which came to fruition on the S/T "Network Album" and "Oblivion". This is one fun album to fool people with (tell them it's a bootleg) and one of the best offhanded tributes to the Fab 4 ever.. Don't take it too seriously.
on November 3, 2009
Coming after Utopia's most successful album to date (the radio-friendly Adventures in Utopia), this Beatles tribute/parody was...not what people were expecting. The fact that John Lennon was assassinated around the time of the record's release didn't help matters any. As a result, the Utopia boys took a critical shellacking this time out.
And that's a shame, because if more people could have looked past their confusion and the bad timing, this brilliant little record would have been justly lauded for what it really is: half an hour of straight up fun. You can have a good time figuring out which Beatles tunes are being riffed on, but Utopia had far too much intelligence, wit and talent to simply crank out a bunch of Beatles knockoffs. They put their own stamp on the material, and the album is crammed with catchy songs that should have been all over the radio. Try "That's Not Right." Or "Feel Too Good." Or "Take it Home." Or "All Smiles." Or...heck, try any of 'em.
As I heard it, after Adventures yielded a hit single, Roger, Willie and Kasim understandably wanted to put out another record in that vein in hopes of expanding the fan base and maybe getting another hit or two, but Todd vetoed that idea and said they'd be doing a Beatles album, so the others had to go along with that. And as usual, they gave it their all and put out a great record. Unfortunately, it didn't get the welcome it deserved.
If you love the Beatles, or just great pop music, you owe it to yourself to give this one a listen. Wrap it up and take it home.