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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

(the) Tubes - Remote Control

Artist: (the) Tubes
Album: Remote Control
Year: 1979
Style: Power Pop, Prog
Similar Artists: 10cc, Supertramp, ELO, Cheap Trick, The Who, Styx, Steely Dan
"One Word" Review: prog-rock-opera
Based Out Of: San Fran, CA
Label: A&M
 Remote Control - Cover & Record
Remote Control - Back & Record
Remote Control (1979)
  1. Turn Me On 4:10
  2. TV Is King 3:08
  3. Prime Time 3:15
  4. I Want It All Now 4:27
  5. No Way Out 3:22
  6. Getoverture (instrum.) 3:23
  7. No Mercy 3:27
  8. Only The Strong Survive 3:54
  9. Be Mine Tonight 3:30
  10. Love's A Mystery (I Don't Understand) 3:27
  11. Telecide 5:41

Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Todd Rundgren - Producer, Guitar, Keys, Engineered (Nazz, Utopia)
Fee Waybill - Vox (Toto, Richard Marx)
Bill Spooner - Guitar, Vox
Michael Cotten - Synth, Design (Kinks)
Mingo Lewis - Percussion (Al di Meola)
Prairie Prince - Drums (Journey, Jefferson Starship [next gen])
Roger Steen - Guitar, Vox (Nina Hagen)
Re Styles - Vox
Vince Welnick - Keys (Grateful Dead)
Rick Anderson - Bass
Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff - Concept Coordination
Chuck Beeson - Coordination, cover design
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Mark Hanauer - Photography
Jim McCrary - Cover Photo & Photography
Roland Young - Art Direction

Unknown-ness: So sure, I’ve heard of the Tubes, and I had when I bought the record…but did I really know what they sounded like? No. Even assuming they are general New Wave music is not a sure sign of what their music and albums sound like. So based on the incredible cover and album-wide concept of TV, I wanted to get this to decide for myself what they sound like. I don’t do this with many bands or covers, but with this album, it was the cover that sold me on the idea of reviewing the Tubes.

Album Review: This tubes record is a concept album about a television-addicted idiot savant, and is based on a book called Being There. This fifth album of there is the first to be produced by Todd Rundgren.

“Turn Me On” fades up with a pulsing synthesizer and funky Devo-ish keyboard sounds. It drives with the drums added, and is full of Cheap Trick power pop. And a Kiss-harmonized chorus. The song had a great driving pace and dynamic chord changes. The instrumental ending feels rock-operatic, like The Who’s Tommy.
“TV Is King” continues the same theme, and is more relaxed in tempo, but makes up for it in energetic vocals, and it continues the harmony in the chorus and power pop chord changes. This song expresses the love for a machine, much like Tommy and his pinball machine. There is a mounting tension as the song builds, and it ends with that hovering tension
“Prime Time” starts with a smooth, calm female fronted Blondie-style disco song. Straight up Disco. Bee-Gees harmonized chorus, and a hovering string section flow throughout the verse of song. The show tune aspect still exists here, and it feels like it could be from the film The Apple. The brief improve dance-off instrumental section features dialogue spoken over the section.
“I Want It All Now” has soaring electronic notes that twist out of existence. The marching beat leads to a dream like bridge into the harmonized power-chorus. The cold, robotic theme that Styx Mr. Roboto dips a little into this territory for inspiration.
“No Way Out” has a disco tempo, but again this feels like it was a natural predecessor for Styx rock opera. There is lots of chaotic energy that simulates the trapped feeling of being stuck somewhere, thus the title “no way out” is quite apt.  

“Get-Overture” starts side 2 with an instrumental with soaring synth and stumbling, crashing percussion. It builds up, climbing higher and higher, and is taken over with a race track of melody, with sonic the hedgehog like precision and motivation. The song ends at a pinnacle, and fades right into the next track
“No Mercy” is a grimy, back alley stomp taking out of from the clouds of the opening track into a blue collar street life. Albeit, a show-tuney version of gritty life with choreographed gang dance moves, sounding a lot like Steely Dan’s Do It Again.
“Only The Strong Survive” is much more of a pub rocking song, with more promise and hope. There are some experimental in Falsetto sections, reminding me of Of Montreal a little. The verse section reminds me a little of Frank N Furter’s songs in Rocky Horror.
“Be Mine Tonight” feels like a Weird Al song. The song builds nicely in the chorus, and crashes into a rewarding power pop chorus. The song continues to tread water throughout the verse to reach the bridge. There is a light hearted breakdown that, if it were a Beatles song, would be whirling and psychedelic. It then continues back into a 2x loop of building choruses, and finishes the song boldly with the repetition of the chorus.
“Love's A Mystery (I Don't Understand)” would be the power ballad that the album desperately needs. With crying dual layered guitars, and sentimental vocals over a basic piano melody. This is like a heavy Air Supply song (and it even has the word “love” in the title, so it doubly passes).
“Telecide” ends the album with fuzzy energetic guitars, and an in your face tempo, with unleased and varying voice experiments. If there were not so many instruments and the vocals were not so polished, this could pass as a punk song. This is the final burst of energy saved up on this side two. It delves into some prog time signatures and tempo changes, in the instrumental section, taming the overall aggressive tempo it had at the outset. Just as you thought it would go back into the rushing chorus, they take one last opportunity for gothic vocals, and guitar effects. But the song heads into a repetition of the TV Suicide chorus chant, before the storyline holds, true, commits tele-suicide, and the song lofts the listener up to the broadcast heaven with an angelic conclusion. 

Stand Out Track: Turn Me On



  1. I had to comment since you're posting about one of my favorite albums which was produced by my all-time favorite artist and producer.

    I'm surprised you did not list Todd Rundgren under sound-alikes-when he's producing he always leaves his "personality" on the end product, and it is very evident on the two albums he did for The Tubes (Love Bomb is the other title he helmed)-"Love's A Mystery" would have been at home on any Rundgren or Utopia record, and one of the songs on Love Bomb actually found it's way onto a Rundgren album.

    More Todd/Tubes connections-Vince Welnick (RIP) was a member of Todd's touring ensemble before joining the Grateful Dead, and Prairie Prince has been Todd's touring drummer for nigh onto two decades. .

    "Prime Time" got a fair amount of radio play in Philly in the seventies when the album was released, but it would be a couple of albums away before they had their big hit with "She's A Beauty."

    I loved this disc, but I am also a huge Rundgren fan (just saw him last Saturday night).

    A couple of my friends who were Tubes fans back in the day did not like this one as much because it sounded "too much like Todd."

    You're usually reviewing stuff I am unfamiliar with as well, but this one was a trip down memory lane!


  2. Larry, thanks for your comments! As I go thorugh these records, I tend to "live" with each album for a few days. And although I've been within a one or two degrees of Todd Rundgren for many records (known or probably unknown as well), i'm not familiar with his music, so I could not really put it up there...but I take your word for it, and I probably should have included him. I'm probably most familiar with his work with XTC. What would you recommend of his to "discover" his sound?

  3. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back here.

    In my opinion, his two best solo releases are "Hermit Of Mink Hollow" and "Nearly Human" (although I also loved 2008's "Arena," but it was a harder rock album than his 'signature' sound. With Utopia, I'd recommend the albums "Adventures In Utopia," and the self-titled "Utopia" album (with the band photo on front, not the "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" release with the eye cover).

    Have you ever read about the making of the XTC "Skylarking" record? Andy Partrdge trashed Rundgren at the time, although I have heard him begrudgingly give him credit for a good final product. Most of what I remember him objecting to at the time is consistent with what I have heard about Todd, and even sometimes, from Todd in interviews-he is somewhat of a task master in the studio, and I always assumed that accounts for the sound that comes from his productions often being more like one of his albums.

    Both Tubes albums exhibit that, as does the Cheap Trick album he produced ("Next Position Please"), and Hall & Oates "War Babies."

    In fact, when I first heard WMMR play the Hall & Oates song "Kiss On My List," I thought it was a new Todd record (after you listen to "Hermit Of Mink Hollow" I think you'll understand why)