The long awaited new album from the UK legends sees Messrs Townsend and Daltrey keep the music alive 50 years on.
The first 30 seconds of album opener “All This Music Must Fade” is all it takes to show what has been missed over the past 13 years since the release of their last studio album Endless Wire. Roger Daltrey is the voice through which guitarist Pete Townsend directs his views on the world, apart from the odd solo release. It could be argued that there is no better voice in music through which to release your innermost thoughts and opinions.
The Who are at their best when they are bombastic, forthright and energetic. There are gutsy rockers like the politically charged blues stomp of “Ball and Chain”, “Detour” and “All This Music Must Fade”. All of them carry the traditional Who stamp and should prove to be live favourites should they make the setlist on next year’s tour. There are slower more melancholic moments in the shape of “I’ll Be Back”, which see Townsend showcasing his own vocal talents alongside the light-jazz feel of tracks like “She Rocked My World” and “This Gun Will Misfire”. The slow-burner of “Rockin’ in rage” fits nicely between the two camps.
Whilst the albums cover, by Peter Blake, nods heavily to the band’s glorious past the vast majority of the tracks are stepped in the here and now, save perhaps for a touch of nostalgia with a short blast back to the 1960’s with the maximum R&B of “Got Nothing To Prove”.
As Daltrey proved on his excellent solo album last year his voice is still in fine fettle and he is sounding the wisened master of rock on this album more than ever before.
Of the 14 tracks on offer on the Deluxe version it can be said that perhaps one or two might be termed fillers. This is not particularly meant in a derogative manner but simply put the tracks would not be overly missed if they were not on the album. The tracks in question are namely “Beads on One String”, an ode to human connectivity and religion which falls flat and feels a touch cliched and preachy and the aforementioned “She Rocked My World”.
Ultimately, the album doesn’t quite live up to the first three tracks released via Apple Music in the lead up to the album’s release, but they were exceptional tracks, however this is an album that will demand, and get, multiple listens and then I am convinced some more of the sheer magic of Townsend/Daltrey will reveal itself.
Whether you believe this to be a great album by the band, that deserves to sit amongst the classic albums they have made in the last five decades or not, there is no doubt that this is The Who. Due to tragic passing way before their time of Keith Moon and John Entwhistle, they are shorn of two of popular music’s most revered artists but, importantly, the band played on. This album is more than a justification for doing so. The modern version of the band on this album includes bassist Pino Palladino, drummers Zak Starkey and Joey Waronker, and keyboardist Benmont Tench. All of whom have quality and style written on their bones.
Does it have the sheer majesty and genius of Who’s Next? No it doesn’t. Does it contain the vision and emotive narrative of Quadrophenia? No. In time this album will most likely sit somewhere outside the very best of The Who but after 50 years to still make new music of this quality is a significant achievement.
This music will not fade. Get wise, get WHO.
Donnie’s Rating: 9/10
WHO is out now