Album Review: The Who – Who (2019)

You would be surprised how many names this album has already been given. Ever since its announcement in September of 2019, it’s been dubbed “the best work since Quadrophenia,” “the best work since Face Dances,” and “the best work since (insert some other previous Who album here).” Despite no longer being the smash hit (pun intended) group they were in the late sixties and early seventies, the Who’s new self titled album has been very highly anticipated for a while.

In their first album since Endless Wire (2006), vocalist Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend really come out swinging on this release. Sure, they won’t ever sound the same without the late Keith Moon and John Entwistle, but as far as a straightforward rock ‘n’ roll album, it really delivers.

The lead-off track, “All This Music Must Fade,” has some great sounding vocals from Roger Daltrey, some nice harmonies in the chorus, and a cool bass-line from session player Pino Palladino. Despite the first line of the song, “I don’t care / I know you’re gonna hate this song,” the first tune on the album could very well be the best on it.

That isn’t to say that the quality drops significantly throughout the album, as there are several other highlights. “Ball and Chain” is a great blues-rocker of a song that follows the opening number with some power.

The first half of Who also has a few retrospective numbers, both musically and lyrically. Musically, “Street Song” has a background synth-loop that would remind anyone of The 1971 Who classic “Baba O’Rielly,” while the orchestration on “Hero Ground Zero” — another high point — sounds like it was pulled right off of Quadrophenia (1973).

Lyrically speaking, “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise” is something of a follow-up to 1965’s “My Generation”. While that classic was all about looking towards the future and not wanting to grow old, “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise” is about the punks they were in the early days, that thing they had for smashing gear on-stage, and how they wish life had stayed like that.

There are a few other decent songs — The funky “Detour” and the folky “Break the News” — but the rest of Who is mostly filler songs and throwaways. Pete Townshend’s vocal contribution, “I’ll Be Back,” is just boring and sounds the same the whole way through. “Beads On One String” is just a bit too… “over-eighties-ified”: too fake sounding, although the choruses are quite catchy (it’s not awful folks).

In the end, The Who’s 2019 contribution to (popular?) music really isn’t bad at all for a couple of guys in their mid-70’s, and it has lots of great retrospective moments. Roger Daltrey’s voice doesn’t sound the same (why would it anyway?) but the album is packed full of great seventies-style rock songs, and is a great listen for fans of The Who and classic rock fans in general.

Overall rating: 7/10

Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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