By the time they recorded their fourth album, Utopia had dropped their lead man's name from the title. While signifying on the one hand that Todd Rundgren was allowing for more contribution by other band members this was probably more than anything a simple logical step now that the four core members of the group had crystallized out of the many loose and shifting incarnations of Utopia that came before.
Along with the simplified band name, the music changed from the fantastic/operatic/grand progressive rock found on the preceding Ra to a more stripped down pop rock high on energy and ideals. Todd Rundgren himself attributes this change less to the advent of punk (which wasn't that big in the US anyway), but more to a change in attitude by the band.
The album starts out with a really hard and heavy rock number that picks up one of Utopia's main writing themes - the constant fight for freedom and self-expression against a grim system. The tag line for this song would be 'Have the guts to stand for something or you're gonna be trapped'
The contrast to the next song, “Windows”, couldn't be more harsh, this being a soft keyboard dominated ballad rich with the vocal harmonies Utopia does so well. Keyboarder Roger Powell takes over lead vocals here. These are equally shared among band members throughout the album. While Todd and Kasim on base are the better vocalists, both Roger and John Wolcox on drums do a good job.
Next comes another rock anthem with “Love in Action”. A live favorite of the band it is again set to the theme of love and good overcoming evil. “Crazy Lady Blue” is a nice ballad sung by John Wilcox and benefits from a great arrangement and superb vocal harmonies.
Another band classic is “Back on the Street”, fronted by Kasim Sulton. The two-note base line creates a real urgency during the verses, while the chorus lets loose the energy. A song about finding yourself out of work and on the street, this content is indicative of a more radical political and social slant to Utopia's lyrics that would be prominent in the years to come.
The next song “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is a very catchy song about alienation and bewilderment regarding society in the late seventies - hence the very cynical flavour to the lyrics that are harmonized beautifully over a swinging rhythm. One of Utopia's finest moments comes during the anthemic interlude that fades gradually into distortion. A real goose bump moment.
“The Martyr”, “Abandon City” and “Gangrene” are probably the weakest songs in the context of the whole album, though they are far from being filler material.
For the grand finale, Utopia then presents two incredibly captivating songs. The first – “Rape of the Young” - sees Utopia in its most radical political stance as Todd viciously attacks the military, capitalism and big buck companies. A great rallying song for the underprivileged and the children of today. “It's the last generation of a world gone wild, it's a violation of the unborn child, it's a rape of the young.”
Finally, there's “Love is the Answer”, an anthemic, all-engulfing 'hope ballad' if ever there was one. A live encore staple, the song is a distillation of Todd's constant hoping and pleading for sanity and compassion in the world. The final sing along/clap along passage of the song comes close to a spiritual moment and will have those unjaded tearing up every time they hear it. Not surprisingly, this was one of Todd's most covered songs.
Overall this was one of Utopia's finest moments and ought to rightfully be regarded as a classic rock album by any standard. Utopia has always been one of the most unfairly overlooked and underrated bands and this record stands as a prime piece of the evidence.