The Who – “WHO” Album Review

Story posted December 11, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by William Roche

In 1965, a band from London released its first album, “My Generation.” Now in 2019, after countless awards, a Broadway show based on its sensational album “Tommy” and current articles stating the members don’t always get along, the Who has released a new album with all new music for the first time since 2006.

The creatively titled album “WHO” starts off strong with “All This Music Must Fade” and “Ball and Chain.” Even with the members’ old age, the band still brings the guitar-smashing rock that it is famous for. While Roger Daltrey’s voice has aged, it is still strong as ever, as he sings the opening lines, “I don't care/I know you're gonna hate this song/And that's fair/We never really got along.” These lyrics could relate to the band’s current relationship status (Daltrey and Pete Townshend usually stay in different hotels while they are on the road) or it could simply be the Who’s“baby boomer” opinion on how music is changing and how it isn’t going to change for anyone. Regardless of the meaning of the lyrics, the musicianship and production are right on key: simple, yet provide the listener with what he or she listens to the Who for: rock and roll.

Before the album plateaus, the Who gives the audience songs reminiscent of its much earlier work. With “Detour,” it is hard not to think about songs like “My Generation” or “The Kids Are Alright.” With backing vocals and a groove that anyone can jam to, “Detour” provides an excellent segue to a standout track, “Beads on One String.” This song, while shorter than any other track on the album, provides musical changes between the verses and the chorus. Starting off soft, Daltrey shines in front of a subtle acoustic guitar and a dreamy, almost-‘80s-sounding instrumental riff. The lyrics stick with a similar theme of sticking together and moving on from the past. It is the musicianship that stands out and makes it one of the standout tracks.

The album comes to a standstill starting with “Hero Ground Zero” and finishing with “I’ll Be Back.” While the production is there, the instrumentals blend together and make these songs sound repetitive by doing the same thing that the band always does: introducing explosive guitars out of nowhere, then softening down after startling the listener. The vocals, production and lyrics are traditional Who, so they don’t really do anything special to gain new listeners.

The tempo and pace of the album returns with “Break the News.” The acoustic guitar and rhythm built into the chorus make it another standout track on the album, as they highlight the Who’s musicianship and Daltrey’s vocals with a switch between the familiar soft-tempo verse and the uptempo chorus. While the Who has a pattern, it’s been doing it right for decades, and it shines with this album.

At the end of the record, the Who introduces to the listener a ballad titled “Danny and My Ponies.” It comes off as a tale of people struggling, with lyrics like “The tramps in our country have nowhere to hug/Home hysterics give comfort, there's no time to talk.” But with the filtered vocals (not quite autotuned but also not pure), it becomes distracting to the listener to pay attention to the story that the Who is trying to tell. And with a song that has no definite hook or chorus, the band needed to bring more attention to the storyline by making the lyrics more clear.

Overall, “WHO” has a lot of ups and downs. While it still is the Who, and it has some standout tracks, it will not bring in new fans but rather give diehard fans a reason to justify spending too much money on concert tickets for a band that pretends to like its other members while they are on stage.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Song: “Beads on One String” and “Break the News”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “I’ll Be Back” and “She Rocked My World”

 

William Roche is a junior majoring in film/video. To contact him, email wtr5043@psu.edu.