Spin Control

November 5, 2006


  • RAP

    Kevin Federline, "Playing With Fire" (Reincarnate) | Kevin Federline is eager to be known as something besides the former dancer for Justin Timberlake, Pink and Britney Spears who somehow won La Brit's heart and has since been busy reproducing with her and making gossip-column headlines for his loutish behavior. He is, he would have us know, an artiste. So what is his primary lyrical concern throughout his Britney-financed debut? How cool he is because he's married to a filthy-rich superstar, a subject that permeates all of his raps, and which is interrupted only by his other favorite themes: how much he loves to party and how hard life is in the media glare.

    "All these model chicks wanna do me / Tabloids tried to screw me," he boasts/whines in "America's Most Hated," doing his best to imitate Snoop Dogg's laconic drawl. "Who told this bastard that he can't rap? / I got 50 mil / I can do whatever I want!"

    Yes, K-Fed, that may be the case, though even Britney was probably smart enough to impose a pre-nuptial agreement, so we can argue how much of that cash is really yours. Not tripping over your tongue is not the same as being a good rapper, and Federline's hollow, tedious talk of his allegedly hardcore past (he could invite the ladies to "dance with a pimp" while "holding a blunt" and carrying a "Glock" in his pants) combine with the bargain-basement imitation West Coast g-funk grooves to make this disc the silliest parody of gangsta rap since the 1993 film "CB4," the "This Is Spinal Tap" of the genre. Only K-Fed ain't kidding, which makes things even more pathetic.



    The Who, "Endless Wire" (Universal Republic) |

    It may not seem fair to harp on the diminishing sonic wallop of what's left of the Who: Keith Moon and John Entwistle are gone, and we can debate whether the band should continue without them, or we can listen to what Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are giving us now, on the first new Who album in 24 years. But then ol' Pete opens the disc with a song called "Fragments" that cops the famous synth riff and opening guitar chord of "Baba O'Riley" -- not to mention packaging the album as a two-disc set, with the second CD comprising live performances of four Who classics in a sleeve duplicating "Live at Leeds" but crossing out that locale and penciling in "Lyon" -- and it seems as if the band's auteur is begging comparisons.

    So, alright, Mr. Townshend: "Endless Wire" is a better album than 1982's "farewell" effort "It's Hard." But that's hardly saying much, and it sure ain't as good as anything recorded before Moon's death in 1978.

    The first half is a collection of nine varied tunes, some more successful than others: "Fragments" and "Mike Post Theme" are fair approximations of old-school Who bombast and grandeur, but Townshend's Tom Waits imitation on "In the Ether" is unlistenable, and he's way too heavy-handed with his philosophizing lyrics in "A Man in A Purple Dress" (a rant against hypocrisy inspired by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ") and the dragging "God Speaks of Marty Robbins" (which imagines The Man Upstairs rushing to finish creation so He can listen to the country crooner.) It's never been easy to follow Townshend's grand conceptualizing, but this is the sort of thing that makes you wonder if he's been putting us on the whole time.

    Ditto the second half of the disc, 10 tunes that comprises the mini-opera "Wire & Glass," which is based on Townshend's Web-published novella, The Boy Who Heard Music, and which sorta tells the story of the rise of a struggling rock band, interspersed with Pete's familiar riffs about the transformative nature of technology and the spiritual power of music. Again, there are bits that bring to mind the Who of yore -- the rollicking "Pick Up the Peace" and the giddy "We Got a Hit" -- but like all of the band's attempts at rock opera, the good songs would have been better on their own, without the grand conceit and pointless filler, and the same was true of "Tommy."

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Not quite. And at the end of the day, the minor pleasures here aren't enough to win over any listener who isn't a Who diehard, and they will hardly rank on the list of the group's most significant contributions when the Who is finally no more.