Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Album Review: The Who - WHO

The Who 
*** out of *****

What hits the listener on The Who's first album of new material in almost thirteen years is that this sounds like a proper Who record which is a surprise as only Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey remain from the band's hey days and they recorded separately with a host of studio musicians/friends contributing to that sound. The second thing that stands out is how well Daltrey's voice has recovered as he is in fine form propelling this collection of songs forward on that patented Who overblown rock and roll sound. The third is that it is a pretty solid collection of Who songs and a worthy addition to the bands catalog, while not coming close to their heyday, but still worlds beyond their last release of new music, the laughable Endless Wire.

'The Who Two' are both staring at seventy five years old and have no need for new music but Townshend has always been one of the more astute rockers capturing a time/moment/feeling and being able to lyrically express it through Daltrey's tough guys vocals. Now he faces old age as a rocker, impotent at times, disgusted at others while facing mortality.

While clearly not a rock opera, the album it is thematic in that growing old sense. "Rockin' In Rage" is the core centerpiece with classic Who tense string passages, pianos and cymbals supporting the lyrics. Opener "All This Music Must Fade" also expertly grapples with being out of touch and old, using ooh's and ah's around dynamite synth work from Benmont Tench, fantastic Townshend strumming and Pino Palladino/Zak Starkey low end work. "Break The News" successfully looks at old love and pain while "I'll Be Back" goes a step further as Townshend takes over lead vocals to declare he will be back for reincarnation to visit his love around folk rock complete with harmonicas and torrents of lyrics that at time seems cluttered, a touch sappy, but honest.

The Who never really did the blues, they rawk, but the music on first single "Ball and Chain" grooves around piano, meaty riffs, massive Starkey hits, and odd lyrics protesting injustice of Guantanamo. "I Don't Want To Get Wise" starts marching around Carla Azar's drumming, Tench's synths and some of Daltrey's strongest vocals while "Hero Ground Zero" musically fits right in The Who's mid 70's wheelhouse.

More of a mixed bag is "Detour" which throws it back to the Who's earliest days but gets scattered along the way, the new wave on "Beads on One String" and "Street Song" both lack a proper punch, but all have moments that remind that this is one of the greatest rock bands of all time. 

This is not your classic must hear Who of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, yet this album is a fine late career entry into the bands catalog. At this point WHO will probably serve as proud final note for their studio recording career; it is an album that they and their fans can be proud of.
Last September RtBE dove into The Who, one of our all time favorites, for our Masters Series. Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below:

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