Astral Drive aka Phil Thornalley is a lot of things. Producer (The Cure, Prefab Sprout, Pixie Lott), one-time member of aforementioned Cure, and co-writer of Natalie Imbruglia’s mega hit ‘Torn”, with loads of other credits under his belt. He is also completely infatuated and crushing hard on Todd Rundgren. On his new self-titled album , the Todd influence is so overt, so brazen, so unabashed in it’s love and reverence that it’s nearly impossible to cast a critical eye…or at least it is for me as a Todd loving fool. There are flourishes in certain songs that are reminiscent of very specific Rundgren tracks ( the title track both is and isn’t Todd’s 1973 “Sometimes I Just Don’t Know What to Feel”)… but they are delivered so earnestly, are so heart on the sleeve, that complaining about them seems nonsensical ( gotta say this as I suspect some purists may take issue with it). The entire LP is just melodic to the core, full of pretty glorious, un-cynical piano pop-soul, and hooks, hooks,hooks (of course). Want to mention that things get even more meta on tracks like ” No One Escapes” and the fab lead single “Summer of ’76”, where the respective chorus’s brush shoulders with those of another wondrous artist who himself was openly influenced by Todd, namely New Radicals/ Gregg Alexander…and so if you dig that stuff at all, you will very likely be susceptible to the charms on display here.
The additional irony is that Todd himself embarked on a similar venture way back in 1980 with his band Utopia, releasing an album of deliberately Beatle-esque songs called “Deface The Music”, which itself was all love (and pretty fun honestly)…and so, thinking Todd would heartily approve of this labor of love.
And with that, take a listen to the album on Spotify below and party like it’s 1976:
And have a look at the video for lead single “Summer of ’76” which pretty much captures the feeling in a bottle :