thu 02/07/2020

CD: The Who - WHO | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Who - WHO

CD: The Who - WHO

A bracing and bellicose return for the rock giants

WHO thrives on the kind of energy that fuelled this band in the Sixties and Seventies

From the off, with a bellicose Daltrey declaring “I don’t care, I know you’re going to hate this song,” on the opener “This Music Must Fade” to the ferocious vocal hitched up to a careering chariot of a riff that drives “Ball and Chain”, and the look-back-in-anger ravings of “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise”, WHO sets its stall as The Who thriving on the kind of energy that fuelled this band in the Sixties and Seventies, while dwelling in that wordy introspective philosophical space Townshend has occupied for decades, in interview and in song. The sound and fury of this bracing set of openers harks back 40 years to Who Are You’s “New Song”, and the coruscating self-analyses embedded in much of 1975’s Who By Numbers, albeit with surprising but effective touches of auto-tune here and there on the lead and harmony vocals.

Further in, “Rocking In Rage” taps into the same core of anger that fathered “My Generation” – how many generations ago? – this time at the descending end of the life cycle, the anger undiminished, the self-conscious awkwardness, too, as dislocated as it ever was. "Detour" is a fantastic nod to “Magic Bus”-era rhythms and call-and-response, with Townshend’s snaking guitar driving the chorus over the edge towards a beautiful synth fade reminiscent of the “Baba O'Riley” intro. “Beads on a String” and “Break the News” are softer, reflective songs, the latter a lovely mid-tempo piece of pop rock celebrating domesticated love, the former harking back to Townshend’s Meher Baba-era spirituality, and with a beautiful melody. Daltrey handles these quieter pieces very well.

With WHO, "classic" doesn’t mean retread. After 16 years from the studio, they’re here to challenge, not to please. And with a supporting cast that includes drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino, Benmont Tench on keyboards, the highly effective waves of synths and programming created by D Sardy (brother to The Fall’s Marcia Schofield, fact fans) and even Gordon Giltrap lending acoustic guitar to the reflective closer, “She Rocked My World”, WHO is energetic, antagonistic, reflective, and stands up beside their best work. That’s no mean achievement. In rock'n'roll terms, it’s a bleeding miracle.

@CummingTim

With WHO, ‘classic’ doesn’t mean retread. After 16 years from the studio, they’re here to challenge, not to please

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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