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The Who - Who Are You CD (album) cover


The Who



3.31 | 208 ratings

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4 stars In many ways WHO ARE YOU is a continuation of the experiments with symphonic rock that had started on QUADROPHENIA. The main differences are threefold: (1) By the time of WHO ARE YOU, Keith Moon's drumming had lost most of its original power; (2) Pete Towshend's heavy guitar sound is less prominent than in the past (he still does lots of experiments with synths); and (3) John Entwistle now contributes one of his least distinguished compositions: "905".

Perhaps the most striking development is Roger Daltrey's growth as lead singer. Love him or loathe him (detractors complain Daltrey "tried to turn barking into art"), the old geezer who could barely hold a tune in the mid-1960s had by 1978 become a highly expressive vocalist. Who else could have sung "Music Must Change", Townshend's superb bluesy ode to changing Rock, with such energy and conviction? Yet another of Daltrey's star performances is "Guitar and Pen", which has been criticised in some quarters for being too close to Gilbert & Sullivan's operettas. Well, I've always found "Guitar and Pen" an exciting development for the band: Townshend's guitar arrangements are first-rate, and in many ways this is a truly progressive track which expands the vocabulary of orthodox rock 'n' roll.

Many of the songs on WHO ARE YOU (the blistering opening number, "New Song", for example) are concerned with the value of writing the same familiar music again and again. By the late seventies Towsnhend must have felt threatened by British punk - even though the Who were still huge in the USA. His questioning title track also suggests he was suffering from a (tragically early) midlife crisis. In spite of these factors, and in spite of Moon's sad decline, tracks like the sardonic "Sister Disco" (with its flashy synth arpeggios) show that the Who had lost none of their capacity to surprise and delight - at least not yet.

Summing up, you could say that WHO ARE YOU aspires to the grandeur of QUADROPHENIA but only reaches those heights from time to time. I haven't heard ENDLESS WIRE, and (unlike most Who fans) I have a sneaking regard for IT'S HARD, but I wouldn't be surprised if WHO ARE YOU really was the Who's last (near-) great studio album.

fuxi | 4/5 |


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