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The Who: WHO

WHO is the twelfth studio album from legendary British rock act The Who, and first since 2006's Endless Wire, with that album being their first release since 1982's It's Hard. Since the death of drummer Keith Moon, the band have only released now four studio platters, so the output has been a little thin for the last 40 years, but the band certainly have made a strong statement here with WHO. Filled with uptempo catchy, melodic rock anthems, some ballads, and a couple of hook laden folky numbers, WHO is an engaging album that might not quite stack up to the lofty standards of Tommy, Who's Next, or Quadrophenia, but it's a solid entry in their catalog, and for some, might be a tad more enjoyable than their previous three studio releases.

Basically, it's Pete Townshend (guitars, vocals, bass) and Roger Daltrey (vocals) holding down the fort here these days, with touring mainstays Zak Starkey (drums) and Pino Palladino (bass) only appearing on a few songs, leaving Carla Azar, Matt Chamberlain, Gus Seyffert, Joey Waronker, to fill in the gaps along with keyboard player Benmont Tench. Gordon Giltrap also contributes acoustic guitar to one song. The album opens strong with the 1-2 punch of "All This Music Must Fade" and "Ball and Chain", two sprightly rockers that contain all the anthemic qualities of vintage Townshend songwriting, Daltrey sounding as good as he has in ages, and Pete kicking in some great rock riffing. "I Don't Wanna Get Wise" is another memorable track with a hooky chorus and lots of guitar & keyboard layers, while "Detour" combines rock muscle with bubbling electronica, Daltrey sounding especially fiery throughout. Synths play a big part on the melodic "Beads On One String", Townshend again showing how he can still write a catchy pop-rock song, and "Hero Ground Zero" has a grand, majestic, almost symphonic quality, the elder statesmen delivering another memorable anthem driven by some terrific drumming courtesy of Chamberlain. For "Street Song", the band employ plenty of synth & guitar textures, Starkey killing it on the drums, another album highlight, and Pete takes the lead vocal on "I'll Be Back", a mellow pop song with strings, harmonica, and electronica, perhaps the weakest track on the album but not terrible by any means. That brings us to the biggest surprise on WHO, the folky pop of "Break the News", The Who pulling in a rather Beatles sounding ditty, the acoustic guitars magical, the vocal harmonies lush, and that memorable and upbeat. The last two tracks kick things into high gear just as the album begins, "Rockin' In Rage" sees Daltrey spouting some venom and Townshend winding up some power chords on his Stratocaster, while "She Rocked My World" is a mystical, moody slice of jazz/pop/folk, Roger and Pete both nailing the chorus while the guitarist shares acoustic guitar duties with Giltrap. Splendid stuff.

The more you listen to WHO, the more you like it. Originally, I was leaning towards a very solid 3.5 stars here, but I'm going to go with a very strong 4.0 rating, as I've grown to really appreciate all the different styles and textures on display here. While I still wish there was a little more Townshend guitar firepower on display, I realize those days are long gone, and he really has put a lot of different layers here that are quite enjoyable. The real surprises however are Daltrey's vocals and Pete's songwriting, both in fine form, which has helped this to be a much stronger album than I anticipated. A real nice surprise here in late 2019 to help close the year out on a winning note. Will it be the last from this legendary band? We shall see.

Track Listing

  1. All This Music Must Fade
  2. Ball and Chain
  3. I Don’t Wanna Get Wise
  4. Detour
  5. Beads On One String
  6. Hero Ground Zero
  7. Street Song
  8. I'll Be Back
  9. Break The News
  10. Rockin' In Rage
  11. She Rocked My World

Added: December 28th 2019
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1110
Language: english

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