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The Who – WHO: album review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published December 16th 2019
They're back
I looked at the new Cold Chisel album recently, and mentioned if it wasn't for another new release, that would be on constant rotation. Well, at the same time a new album was dropped by an even older warhorse band, and that's the other CD I've been playing. It's by The Who. Yes, The Who.

WHO by The Who (2019)
who, album, cover, CD, music


Really, The Who have been reduced to two members (plus a lot of guests) – Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. But that's okay – this is still a Who album. Now, I have looked at a classic Who album in the past, and there are at least two more Who albums I should look at in the same vein. But for now, the new one!

Yes, I think The Who are awesome. And yet it was with some trepidation that I approached WHO, their latest album. I enjoyed Endless Wire, even though many critics did not, which was their last album, but it did not have the feel of a Who album. It was very good, don't get me wrong, but it lacked a certain something that made it a Who album.

Anyway, I pre-ordered this and… well, I'm writing about it, so you know I liked it.

Small rant. Yet again, a great album has been released by an old act. What is it with modern rock musos? Some good music has been released, sure, by new artists, but the best albums have nearly all come from the old guard. Look, I'm not complaining because the music has been awesome, but these people are not going to be around forever and then who will come up behind them to take over the rock mantle?

Anyway, enough of my dead horse flogging. Let's look at a wonderful new album by that amazing classic rock stalwart – The Who.

'All This Music Must Fade' "I don't care, I know you're gonna hate this song…" are the opening lyrics to the opening track. This has a classic Who sound, and the lyrics are all about how some things never change… and – you know what? – listening to this, I don't care. This is a great opener. It must be said, picking a good opening track seems to be an art lost on many modern artists. The song is basically an "up yours" to modern musos who ask about the relevance of the classic rockers. Tell you what, guys – make albums this good and we'll listen to you. The anger of The Who of old is here.


'Ball And Chain' A proper, real, angry protest song! Railing against Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and all it represents, with Zak Starkey's drumming underpinning it, this is a really strong track, showing that the old fire is still there.

'I Don't Wanna Get Wise' This is like a riposte to 'My Generation'; they might not have died before they got old, but they are living the old age their way. Life might have taught them some lessons, but they don't care. They've lived life their way. I think I'm going to adopt this song as my personal anthem. My favourite track on WHO.


'Detour' This track, as I listened to it, was one I could imagine working so well live. I can imagine the audience clapping along. Do modern audiences do that? We used to. I got a hint of skiffle in this track as well. Another good track. 4 songs in and not a dud amongst them; already I am a happy CD owner.

'Beads On One String' We slow it down with a power ballad, the sort that Daltrey does so well on his solo albums. It might not be quite Who-like, but it is another really good track. That Daltrey still has the voice to be able to sing like this at his age is amazing. And a good time to change up the tempo of the album. Song placement – another art that is apparently becoming lost.

'Hero Ground Zero' This had an odd feel to it, sort of like late-60s, early-70s Who. And when Daltrey sings about every singer wanting to be a movie star – is Townshend having a dig at him? I liked the song, and this is another track I think would work magnificently live.

'Street Song' This song was okay. With an interesting musical backing, it felt a little bit muted in tone and lyrically. Yeah, only okay.

'I'll Be Back'' A Townshend sung track, it starts like a nice enough, pleasant song, but quite un-Who-like. But that vocoder bit felt out of place. However, it does end with a nice harmonica bit. Not sure about this track, to be honest.

'Break The News' Another song that did not really sound like The Who… in fact, I got a Mumford And Sons vibe from it. Which is fine by me – I like Mumford And Sons. Whereas a lot of the album was looking back on past Who glories, this shows The Who adapting to one of the more modern musical styles. I enjoyed this.

'Rockin' In Rage' When a song is an allusion to a Dylan Thomas poem and yet sounds this angry, you know you have a brilliant piece of writing on your hands. There is more than a hint of 'Won't Get Fooled Again' both lyrically and musically about it, and that works in its favour. Another strong and really good track.

'She Rocked My World' Though lyrically awkward at times, this is a strange bossa nova style song that stands out as being very different. I wasn't sure about it the first time I listened to it, but on further listening, I think I do like it. It's different, sounding (again) like it belongs on a Daltrey solo album, but it is still a fine way to finish this collection.

All right, so there you have it – the new Who album. I enjoyed most of the tracks which is pretty impressive, and there are a few that will definitely be there when The Who are looked back on with a complete career retrospective as being amongst their very best. I'm glad I got it (maybe I should have waited and plugged for the one with the bonus tracks…) and it is a fine addition to The Who's canon.

And that means we have another great album by a classic rock band who, thankfully, have not packed up their things and gone home. Younger bands can still learn so much from these guys. I wish they would…

Well worth the listen.

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