Thursday, August 05, 2010

album of the day: Who's Next

The Who are overplayed on classic rock radio, especially "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," the bookends of their undeniably superb 1971 album. In fact, these are two of the Who's best songs, and two of the best rock songs ever - I think you'd really have to be deranged to disagree. If you sit down and listen to them, rather than have them come at you from the car radio, mixed in with revving engines and car horns, they really still have a lot of force, overplayed as they may be. (We have divergent opinions, locally, on which is better. I'm a "Won't Get Fooled Again" man. Lauren is a "Baba O'Riley" devotee.)

So, I don't need to tell you anything about those songs. But I will tell you this: on the version of the album that I've downloaded from teh Internets, their order is reversed, and the album starts with "Won't Get Fooled Again." I don't know if that matters.

The second tier of songs, not quite as great, include "Bargain," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Going Mobile," and "The Song is Over," all of which are better than at least 80% of all rock and roll songs ever. "The Song is Over" sounds a little precious to me now in 2010, but it's still a lovely tune. "Bargain" describes a lover's abject submission and freaking rocks out, which is an odd combination. Daltrey sounds angry and defiant singing

I'd gladly lose me to find you
I'd gladly give up all I had
To find you I'd suffer anything and be glad

I'd pay any price just to get you
I'd work all my life and I will
To win you I'd stand naked, stoned and stabbed

I'd call that a bargain
The best I ever had
The best I ever had

"Going Mobile" is a frolic about automotive autonomy and being irresponsible. "Behind Blue Eyes" you know.

The weakest three songs on the album, "My Wife," "Getting in Tune," and "Love Ain't For Keeping," are still better than 62% of all rock songs ever.

This isn't a perfect album. It's barely an album, in a way. There's nothing really connecting the songs, not really a thread between them, and even the order of the songs (whether in the released or my screwy version) doesn't make them relate to one another in any way. It's just a bunch of songs all recorded more or less the same time period, beginning right after Tommy was released, and ending after Townshend had a nervous breakdown trying to write a grander, more artful follow-up to Tommy and also became obsessed with synthesizers. (This is one of the earliest rock and roll records to feature synthesizer prominently. It's what makes "Baba O'Riley," of course, but it's also a major instrument throughout. For my money, nobody ever really topped Townshend's use of synthesizer on Who's Next.)

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