October 25, 2020

1980-05-25 – The Los Angeles Times

1980 05 25 The_Los_Angeles_Times_Sun__May_25__1980_

TOWN SHEN D
SINGS TO N EW
GENERATION

BY RICHARD CROMELIN

“EMPTY GLASS." Pete Townshend. Atco
SD 32- 100.

his is Townshend's third endeavor
outside the Who, but it's being bill~
ed as his first legitimate solo album.

It's also the hottest LP in the country. ac-
cording to one radio tip-sheet.

And why not? Townshend has a large,
pre-sold audience, and he's delivered an
album that, despite some lulls, conveys
more urgency and life than anything else
offered recently by rock's over-the-hill
generation.

The most deeply felt and convincingly
performed songs are those that address the
doubts and conflicts that plague Town-
shend: the maddening gulf between him
and his spike-haired descendents; the tra-
vails of romance; the spectre of alcoholism;
the frightening possibility that his life's
been for nothing—symbolized in the empty
glass over which he agonizes in the title
track.

Interludes of contentment buoy the rec-
ord periodically, and one song, “And I
Moved." transcends it all with its surging
depiction of a chilling mystical vision.

Only twice does the album reflect rock‘s
newly raised energy level. "Rough Boys"
—dedicated, significantly, to Townshend's
children and to the Sex Pistols—is “My
Generation" from the other side. The song
drives and slashes, running on a friction
between the fascination and alienation the
subject inspires. Townshend acknowledges
the generation gap. and his determination

CALENDAR

POP RECORDS

to bridge it comes across with an almost

erotic intensity.

In ”Jools and Jim," another blistering
track, Townshend is incredulous that seg-
ments of the punk-oriented rock press
have expressed indifference to Keith
Moon's death: “Morality ain't measured in a
room he wrecked," cautions Townshend,
who goes on to berate the “typewriter tap-
pers' " mentality (”You listen to love with
your intellect"). But then. in a characteris-
tically candid reversal, he strikes a concili-
atory note: “A little wine would bring us
closer . . . 'Cos you’re right. hypocrisy will
be the death of me."

Throughout the album Townshend un—
leashes fusillades of words, like a man
compelled to articulate positions whose es-
sence is uncertainty and dislocation. This
can make for some complex but not neces-
sarily rewarding going; at times it doesn't
even invite an effort, settling for an anony-
mous. ’70s hard-rock tone on a few occa-
sions. That won’t hurt the album's com-
mercial potential, true, but it bothers us
typewriter tappers, who find his rare blend
of spiritual and temporal concerns worthy
of more inspired framing.

Like the Who's music, Townshend's is
largely rhythm-oriented, though he brings
a strong, expansive melodic touch to sever-
al songs. His symphonic, swelling, sawing.
trumpeting synthesizers overshadow his
guitar, and threading its way though most
of the LP is “Rabbit" Bundrick's grand pia-
no, in perpetual glissando from start to fin-
ish.

Townshend's singing is forceful and
deeply felt, except when he adopts a macho
gruffness; more often he sings with a
straighforward naturalism or, best of all,
climbs eagerly up into a keening falsetto
that's both assertive and vulnerable and
which signifies the eternal adolescent still
kicking around inside the old man 5 soul. Cl

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