Thursday, December 10, 2020


Last year's new Who album, simply called Who, was greeted with a very large yawn by the public, no surprise for heritage bands in the streaming era. And it's been a very long time (decades) since there's been a good Who album, so that didn't help. 
Well, it was actually pretty darn good. It features some of Pete Townshend's best songwriting in ages, and passionate, later-life vocals from the still-inspired Roger Daltry. It's a shame it stalled then, but now it's been reissued with a bonus live disc to try to drum up some new interest. 

There are several songs that touch on The Who's legacy, Townshend writing directly about the band's earlier days and what it all means now. Some of that is navel-gazing, but it also speaks to the artist's dilemma, to keep creating or to relive past glories and hits. Also, the group has always been wise to the fact they speak for their audience, from the Mods when they started to the boomers who embraced them through adulthood. Pete's still trying to keep connected, and it's a more successful effort here. That's not to say it's full of top-level Who. A song about the Guantanamo Bay U.S. prison, "Ball And Chain," falls flat, a rare topical song in Townshend's catalog and basically preachy. Sometimes it sounds like Pete did a little bit too much production at home before overdubbing Roger and the guest players, and I'd rather they had crafted this with a band in the studio, but that's only occasionally. All-in-all, in my ranking of Who albums, I'd put this ahead of even some original group albums, certainly it's better than The Who By Numbers. 

The bonus disc is a good listen too. Yes, there have been tons of live Who discs, seemingly every time they go on a Tommy or Quadrophenia or Anniversary tour. This one is a bit different, a stripped-down acoustic show for charity. It's a half-hour, seven-song outing, with a couple of the news ones and some of the usual classics: "Substitute," "Squeeze Box," and "Won't Get Fooled Again" among them. Best of all is a rare outing for "Tattoo," and the light-hearted stage banter between Daltry and Townshend. They both seem at peace with the role their band plays these days.

No comments:

Post a Comment