[Review] Utopia: Oops! Wrong Planet (1977)

Make no mistake, this is where the story of Utopia gets interesting for fans of progressive pop.

Kronomyth 4.0: Planeting the seeds of love.

Though it followed close on the heels of Ra, Oops! Wrong Planet is a further departure from Utopia’s previous work, eschewing longer epics for short, sometimes noisy songs with layered harmonies and a certain amount of Beatlesque charm. With Todd Rundgren involved in writing most of the material, the result not surprisingly feels like a Rundgren solo album much of the time (cf. Hermit of Mink Hollow). Far from the spacey subject matter of Utopia’s earlier work, Oops! is concerned primarily with social criticism: “Rape of the Young,” “Gangrene,” “Back on the Street.” Nothing on here is as heavy-handed as “Hiroshima,” but you’d have to look forward to Swing To The Right to find another Utopia album so dystopian.

Maybe it’s the effect of living for two years under the administration of President Boaty McBoatface, but this album resonates with me more than most Utopia albums, from the caged fury of “Trapped” to the hopefully defiant “Love In Action” and its spiritual twin, “Love Is The Answer.” True to the Utopian model, each member takes their turn at the microphone, with better-than-expected results, from “My Angel” to “The Marriage of Heaven And Hell.” (There is a religious theme at work on many of these songs, although it’s not as obvious as it was on Initiation.)

Despite ending on an optimistic note, this is one of Utopia’s darker records, so optimists may want to opt out of Oops!, but they’d be missing a lot of great music in doing so. In fact, this, Adventures In Utopia and Swing To The Right are my favorite Utopia records (I don’t have a favorite favorite). As a crossover from prog rock to edgier pop music, Oops! Wrong Planet officially cements the second (and most interesting) phase of Utopia, particularly as its individual members began to find their own voice in it.

Original LP Version

A1. Trapped (Todd Rundgren) (3:06)
A2. Windows (Roger Powell) (4:17)
A3. Love In Action (Todd Rundgren) (3:26)
A4. Crazy Lady Blue (Todd Rundgren/John “Willie” Wilcox) (3:37)
A5. Back On The Street (Todd Rundgren) (4:09)
A6. The Marriage of Heaven And Hell (Roger Powell/Todd Rundgren/Kasim Sulton) (4:33)
B1. The Martyr (Todd Rundgren/Kasim Sulton) (3:48)
B2. Abandon City (Roger Powell/Todd Rundgren) (3:49)
B3. Gangrene (Todd Rundgren/John “Willie” Wilcox) (3:36)
B4. My Angel (Roger Powell/Todd Rundgren) (3:40)
B5. Rape of the Young (Todd Rundgren) (3:11)
B6. Love Is The Answer (Todd Rundgren) (4:10)

The Players

Roger Powell (vocals, keyboards, trumpet, Powell Probe), Todd Rundgren (vocals, guitar, saxophone), Kasim Sulton (vocals, bass guitar), John “Willie” Wilcox (vocals, drums). Produced and engineered by Todd Rundgren; additional engineering by Mike Young.

The Pictures

Graphic concept by Utopia. Graphic execution by Ken Kneitel, Fred Weiss. Photography by Fred Weiss.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in September 1977 in the US (Bearsville, BR/M8 6970), the UK (Bearsville, K 55517), Italy (Warner Bros., W 55517) and Japan (Warner Bros., P-10404W) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #73 on the US charts and #59 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released on direct metal mastered elpee and compact disc on July 7, 1988 in the US (Bearsville/Rhino, RNLP/RNCD 70870) with lyrics innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in Japan (Bearsville, VDP-28023).
  3. Re-packaged with Adventures In Utopia on 2-for-1 2CD in 1988 in France (Castle, TFO 9 1/2).
  4. Re-released on remastered 24k gold compact disc in 1995 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 637).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in Europe (Essential, ESMCD 758).
  6. Re-packaged with Ra on 2-for-1 2CD on October 3, 2011 in Europe (Edsel).
  7. Re-released on K2 remastered compact disc in 2013 in Japan (Bearsville, VICP-63458).

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