Friday, August 29, 2014

28 Who's next (1971) The Who

1. Baba O'Riley
2. Bargain
3. Love Ain't for Keeping
4. My Wife
5. The Song Is Over
6. Getting in Tune
7. Going Mobile
8. Behind Blue Eyes
9. Won't Get Fooled Again

It's not easy for a band to reinvent themselves. Many have tried to shed their original image and develop a new one and fallen out of favour with the fans and everyone else. There are some that can pull it off but most have had a bash and then returned to their original genre with their tail between their legs.

Who's Next isn't a total reinvention, it's not a Metal Band playing bluegrass but it's definitely a risky new direction for The Who. They'd started life as a Mod Band playing pop songs that weren't too far removed from early Beatles records. Then they started to become obsessed with Rock Operas and started delivering overblown and overproduced thematic nonsense. Then suddenly they started listening to Led Zeppelin.

The Who used to boast about being the loudest band in the world but hearing Zeppelin would have made them realise that they had well and truly lost the title. Townshend dropped the idea he was working on (which was apparently another lamentable rock opera) and instead decided to take the songs he was going to try and weave into a convoluted narrative and just put out an album that rocked.

And boy does Who's Next rock.

Member for member there was more talent in The Who than in any other quartet going around at the time. Daltrey's voice is an incredibly powerful instruments, Townshend is an under rated guitar player, Entwhistle was one of the great bass players and Moon is just a monster on the drums. When they were all at their peak they were untouchable and the four of them were definitely at their peak on Who's Next. On songs like Bargain, The Who are just a massive and scary four-headed power beast that blows away all the competition. Moon's drumming is enough to generate not just complaints from the neighbours but from the neighbouring nation. There must have been people in France shouting "tourner que vers le bas!" (thanks Google Translate) and worried that their houses were shaking. Its ferocious stuff and light years away from La La La Lies which graced their first album.

There's gold all over Who's Next. Baba O'Rieley and Behind Blue Eyes are powerhouse tracks which will blow you out of your seat and plaster you satisfied to the opposite wall. Both tracks benefit from deceptively low key introductions, Baba with it's repetitive synth chords and Blue Eyes with its acoustic strumming, before they both quickly kick up a notch. I'm hard pressed to pick my favourite out of the two of them but if you twisted my arm and demanded I made a decision I'd pick Behind Blue Eyes if only for the line "And if I swallow anything evil, put your finger down my throat" which is one of the best things anyone has written ever and delivered perfectly by Daltry who sounds like he's swallowed a lot of evil things in his time and is gagging at the memory.

The album ends on his highest note with the wondorously magnificent Won't Get Fooled Again which is 8 and a half minutes of rock perfection which must have had every other band in the world wondering who they had to sell their soul to in order to sound like that. I highly recommend hearing Won't Get Fooled Again in it's full album length (not the edited single version) and on the best stereo you can get your hands on. Moon is just incredible on drums and the whole song is full of pounding beats and fills which are worth hearing on their own and not just as a means of keeping time. Entwhistle's bass is thunderous and Townshend's guitar manages to claim its fair share of attention in amongst everything else that's going on. It's brilliant stuff and the sound of a band of happy mods who have reinvented themselves into the soundtrack for the apocalypse.

Who's next isn't a perfect album. For some reason Townshend decided to handle some of the vocal duties himself which it has to be said was a bit of a mistake. It's fine in a song like Bargain but on The Song is Over it's impossible not to wish Daltrey was singing the entire thing. Tonshend has an okay but limited voice but Rog has a sensational set of lungs and can lay claim to being one of the best lead singers a band has ever had. He should be the first choice for any Who vocal.

If I was in charge I'd also ditch John Entwhistle's My Wife for one of the superior outtakes which dropped from the running time to accommodate it. Don't you Do it or Pure and Easy would have been a much better addition.

But these are fairly minor quibbles. Who's Next is the best thing the Who ever released and one of the best albums of 1971. It's full-strength rock and roll played at an incredible volume by incredibly talented people. If you love Zeppelin and think the Who are all Magic Bus and The Kids are Alright you should check out Who's Next. It will make you a convert.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "On revisting this album after some 15 years I was surprised to find that it had not grown on me at all. I have a wisteria on my wall that has shown more promise in that department. "

-This is the only mention of a wisteria in a review of a Who album. I can't pretend I've read every single one of course but I'm still fairly confident that it's true.

So did you buy this album? Was it a Bargain or did it leave you swearing you won't get fooled again by the Who? Let me know below

1 comment:

  1. Utterly amazed by this album. Turn off the lights , crank up your record player and listen to the magic . The last 30 seconds of This Song Is Over ( after Pete stops singing) show why Moon the Loon is often regarded as Rocks premier tub whacker.