- 03 Jan 20
The thing about the music of The Who - and I write this as someone who considers them to be amongst the greatest rock n’ roll acts of all time - is that, at its best, it is ridiculously exciting. Of all the music that makes you want to get out of the chair and just fucking do something, The Clash might be their nearest rivals. And WHO, against all the odds, is bloody exciting.
Straight out of the traps with ‘All This Music Must Fade’ and Townshend, always one of rock’s great philosophers/bullshit artists - and the man who declared that the ‘Music Must Change’ as far back and 78’s Who Are You at the then ripe old age of 33 - clangs in, in gloriously belligerent fashion. Daltrey, in a voice that could strip paint, still sounding rejuvenated after his brilliant collaboration with Wilko Johnson, then runs with it, declaring “I don’t care, I know you’re gonna hate this song”. The keyboards burble, Zak Starkey kicks the shite out of his kit and that guitar rings out. It finishes with Townshend muttering, “who gives a fuck?” It’s a knockout punch in round one.
They rage, unconcerned about either dying light or whether there’s a country for old men, against the existence of Guantanamo in ‘Ball and Chain’, their own history in ‘I Don’t Wanna Get Wise’, ageing and the world at large in ‘Rockin’ In Rage’, and the laissez-faire that allowed a tragedy like Grenfell in the spitting ‘Street Song’. They just rage on the great ‘Detour’, which jumps on the magic bus for the first time in a long time, and they've still got a naked eye on the new boss, Daltrey bellowing how "in the end every leader becomes a clown" on 'Hero Ground Zero', while the guitar and drums combine with the strident orchestrations in brick-chucking-inspiring fashion.
Things do slow, and dip slightly, here and there, ‘I’ll Be Back’ is so middle of the road it might as well by a white line, and there's a bang - albeit a not entirely unpleasant one - of peace and love off 'Beads On One String' (and what's so funny about that? Etc.), but this is grown up rock n’ roll, with all the power chords, oohing backing vocals, muscular drumming, and left turns one might hope for. There are no songs here pretending that these men are anything other than who they are. If this is their final bow, then it’s a defiant one, with two fingers in the air.