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The Who – Who

December 10, 2019

When I was in my early 20s The Who was my band. Quadrophenia was the soundtrack of my life. I was a fan until February 7, 2010, as the halftime performers at Super Bowl XLIV, they were pathetic.

This is only the fourth studio album since Keith Moon passed in 1978. I have enjoyed all those post-Moon albums, but this may be their best and most cohesive of the four. They have somehow updated their sound without compromising who they are. They use modern recording techniques like pitch correction artistically and lean on their classic synth loops without sounding dated. Most of all they sound unmistakably like The Who.

I am shocked that Townsend and Daltrey have pulled this off. But of course, Townshend is a musical genius. Even his failures are interesting. He is the source of at least four masterpiece LPs (Tommy, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, and Empty Glass) and dozens of other masterpiece songs. So I guess, I should not be surprised that he is capable of late-career magnificence like his peers McCartney and Dylan.

Let’s run through the songs:

  • “All This Music Must Fade” is the opening single and is catchy as hell.
  • “Ball and Chain” sonically sounds like it could be an outtake from the mid-70s, yet lyrically it is contemporary.
  • “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise” is an update on The Who sound.
  • “Detour” is self-referencing – the band’s original name was The Detours. The song has the 60s Who feel – kind of an update of “My Generation.”
  • “Beads On One String” is a different vibe for The Who. Not out of character, but something new.
  • “Hero Ground Zero” is grandiose – overwrought in others’ hands, but perfection in The Who’s hands.
  • “Street Song” has all The Who gimmicks: synth loops, a huge Daltrey vocal, Townsend harmonies, power cords and big drums. Welcome back, boys!
  • “I’ll Be Back” is a Townsend lead vocal. It is a gorgeous soft rock song.
  • “Break The News” schools contemporary folk-rock acts like Mumford and Sons at their own game. Townsend still has cool guitar riffs in his arsenal.
  • “Rockin’ In Rage” has lots of dynamics – from a whisper to a scream. The hardest rocking riffs on the album.
  • “She Rocked My World” almost has a jazz feel. The most nuanced Daltrey vocal on the album.

Overall this is a wonderful surprise – a classic sounding Who album that reminds you of their greatness. They are not gliding to the finish line on nostalgia like so many of their greatest hits legacy band peers. They are very much alive. All meat and no filler. Sonically epic with grand arrangements. Daltrey’s vocals sound great and Townsend’s compositions and production are at their peak. Congrats Pete and Roger!

From → Music Reviews

3 Comments
  1. So far what I’ve heard matches your take.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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