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Tuesday , January 28 2020

Pair return to Who’s rocking ways

Payne stumbles badly with debut CD

This cover image released by Interscope Records shows “Who,” by The Who. (AP)

‘WHO’, The Who (Interscope)

While frequently joining forces for tours and other projects, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey have released just two studio albums as The Who since 1982, with 2006’s “Endless Wire” their last such work until now.

“WHO” sees the pair backed by some of their frequent collaborators since the deaths of drummer Keith Moon in 1979 and bassist John Entwistle in 2002, such as drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino. Others include drummers Joey Waronker and Carla Azar, bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboard player Benmont Tench.

Still, all the splendid backing notwithstanding – and not forgetting co-producer and multi-instrumentalist D. Sardy, either – it’s the high standards of The Who’s last remaining trademarks, Townshend’s songwriting and guitar playing and Daltrey’s superlative singing, that make the album such a joy.

Townshend has written a strong batch of songs full of yearning and confronting the passage of time, many carrying shades and echoes of his past work; he rips power chords and performs slinky riffs; and his vocals, especially in support of Daltrey’s leads, are still a highlight.

Daltrey, for his part, with health concerns behind him, sings with power, sensitivity, range and conviction, just as he has done for decades.

While it doesn’t have the same of air of finality as Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker”, released just weeks before his death in 2016, based on their recording habits of the past decades, “WHO” may well be their last studio album.

The catchy, propulsive opener “All This Music Must Fade” seems like a message about Townshend and Daltrey’s difficult relationship, even though that seems to have mellowed: “I don’t care/I know you’re gonna hate this song. And that’s it/We never really got along.” It may also be a missive to their fans and closes with what will become Townshend’s most famous last words since his “I saw ya!” at the end of “Magic Bus”.

“Ball and Chain”, “Street Song” and “Beads on One String” are topical but many other of the 11 tracks (plus three on the deluxe edition) are simultaneously defiant, vulnerable and contemplative, with aging repeatedly rearing its head.

On the rousing “Rocking in Rage”, like a coda to “Quadrophenia”, the talk is still about their generation: “I thought I’d be calmer/Not rocking in rage,” even if “I’m too old to fight.” It’s a shiver-inducing Daltrey performance.

Nostalgic

Townshend sings lead on “I’ll Be Back”, a nostalgic tune with strings and harmonica, that seems lifted from his “All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes” 1982 solo album.

On “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise”, Daltrey seems to have changed some of the lyric sheet’s “I” pronouns into “he”, “we” and “us”, as if making space for himself in the rocking mini-biography of a song – “He was drunk/I was blind/Though we tried to be kind” – and belting out a “We got wise” at the end.

Thankfully, it’s much too late for Daltrey and Townshend to die before they get old, so with “WHO” they show that even in rock ‘n’ roll, it’s possible to age both with grace and vigor and without abandoning purpose. Or lose the talent to make stirring, highly gratifying music.

 “LP1”, Liam Payne (Capitol)

One Direction fans have reason to rejoice this holiday season: They get not just one, but two full albums from former members – Liam Payne and Harry Styles. Unfortunately for one of them, the reception will be frosty.

Payne’s 17-track “LP1” never really gets off the ground, a collection of monotonous club songs that often sound like warmed-over Justin Beiber rejects. It doesn’t help that some of the offerings are more than two years old.

The first tune – “Stack It Up” with A Boogie Wit da Hoodie – is the best and then the album falls off a cliff into a swamp of skittering drums, synth and libidinous lyrics (“Flippin’ that body/Go head, I’ll go tails”). It breaks no new sonic ground and has a faintly musty whiff. (Weirdly, Payne finally stops grinding for a weepy original Christmas song at the very end.)

There’s a good reason for the first tune being good – it’s co-written by Ed Sheeran and Payne doesn’t try to disguise its origins, mimicking Sheeran vocal tics and flow. For a first album, Payne surprisingly doesn’t show up: He had a hand co-writing only four songs and fails to do anything interesting with his voice.

While Styles is off making fascinating, intriguing music, Payne is clearly phoning in his debut from the club. He sounds happiest on “Both Ways,” when he boasts about his girlfriend’s bisexuality.

Also:

MIAMI: Celebrities including Diplo, Playboi Carti and PnB Rock paid tribute to slain Florida rapper XXXTentacion during the week of parties surrounding Art Basel Miami.

Hundreds of fans gathered at a posthumous album release party Thursday night to be the first to hear XXXTentacion’s Bad Vibes Forever. Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Noah Cyrus and Tory Lanez appear on the album.

Some fans camped out for hours to ensure entrance to the party. At midnight, the album played as emotional videos of the slain rapper played on a screen behind the stage. XXXTentacion’s mother stood onstage, hugging family and friends and occasionally dancing to the music. She said she was trying to stay positive. (AP)

Earlier in the night, Diplo took to the DJ booth as fans lined up for free tattoos and perused an outdoor museum filled with XXXTentacion memorabilia, including three wax statues, family photos and hand-written notes. (AP)

By Pablo Gorondi

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