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The Who - Quadrophenia CD (album) cover

QUADROPHENIA

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

4.49 | 628 ratings

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mr.cub
5 stars I consider this to be The Who's best album; sonically it is not nearly as progressive as 'Who's Next' which was groundbreaking in its sonic explorations, especially for a rock band of such popularity as The Who. Compostion-wise this album transcends the aforementioned 'Who's Next with layered pianos and synthesizers around the core power trio: not to mention the progressive nature of the instrumental tracks and the performances of the musicians. This album contains Townsend's continued interest in synthesizers and thus provides significant depth to the music that is lacking in 'Tommy'. Likewise, this album essentially builds on the developed sound found on 'Who's Next'. Quadrophenia contains many of The Who's best compositions including 'The Real Me', 'Quadrophenia' 'The Punk and the Godfather', 'I'm One', '515', 'Sea and Sand', 'Drowned', 'Doctor Jimmy', 'The Rock' and 'Love Reign O'er Me. Unlike other rock operas, 'Tommy' included, the strength of Quadrophenia lies not in Side 1, but in Side 4; the music on Disc 2 is among the best The Who have ever created and demonstrate Townsend's uncanny ability to write phenomenal songs.

The album begins with crashing waves and rainfall as Townsend here introduces the four themes of the album 'The Helpless Dancer', 'Is it Me?', 'Bell Boy', 'Love Reign O'er Me'. While the themes attempt to relate some element of each of the bandmembers, they serve better as the varying personalities of the main character Jimmy. Then comes John Entwhistle's assault on bass, 'The Real Me' is one of the finest examples of his lead basswork. Moonie flies around the kit as the song builds, with Entwhistle's horns heigtening the tension of the piece while his bass just ignites.'Quadrophenia' is the first of two extraordinary instrumental pieces. Townsend's guitar is the highlight, listen here if you think all he can do is play power chords.

'Cut My Hair' is a very dynamic piece contrasting the gentle piano intro with Pete on vocals and the rough chorus sections with Roger and Pete sharing vocals. Listen for Entwhistle's horns in the background. The ending of the song features a paranoid anxiety that manifests itself in the angst of 'Punk and the Godfather'. A traditional Who rocker- meaning Roger sings lead vocals and then Pete sings the bridge, the power trio at its finest. Notice how Entwhistle mirrors the main riff and then just jumps all around it. Thus ends side 1 and one of the best sides they ever cut.

'I'm One' is an introspective piece with Pete on vocals;beginning with just him and guitar it becomes a full on assault with Moon and Entwhistle joining in; a quaint and restrained piece in terms of its context. The next two songs are my least favorite and what I consider the only weaknesses of the album. 'Is It In My Head' is a great song following a similar format as I'm One, very airy at times and hard rocking at others; the guitar solo into Roger's final vocal lines ('I feel I'm being followed') is one of my favorite parts of the album. ' Then there is 'I've Had Enough': the anxiety returns here, just listen to Moon's drums. A multi- part song combining all the elements that make this album great, this is one of the most dynamic and interesting Who songs, going from two different hard rock sections into 'Love Reign O'er Me' and then the folkish 'I've Had Enough' melody.

Side 3 begins with '5:15', having the same opening theme as 'Cut My Hair' with Pete asking us 'Why should I care?' This song captures the matured Who sound found on this album, with Entwhistle's horns and Townsend's keyboards providing equally to the core sound of bass, guitar and drums. 'Sea and Sand' is another strong track, demonstrating Pete's uncanny ability to balance the aggressive and the contemplative- great Townsend solo to the end ('I'm the face if you want it'). 'Drowned' contains an incredible opening piano line; the instrumental break is extraordinary with Moon and Entwhistle the highlight, notice the '5:15' theme within the 'jam.' 'Bell Boy' is probably the weakest of the songs on Disc 2 but does have some exciting moments.

Then we turn to Side 4. And what a side it is; I will be brief because it is definately worth listening to. Doctor Jimmy features one of the most structured and driving basslines Entwhistle ever recorded; the lyrics essentially illustrate Jimmy's descent into substance abuse, excess, and self idolization (much of this due to his embattled and torn personality). They are very excessive, direct and frankly disturbing lyrics but that is their point. 'The Rock' is a sublime piece of music, ending with a polyphonous layering of the four themes before transitioning into 'Love Reign O'er Me.' The album closer illustrates Jimmy's confessing and absolution of sorts for his loss of self, etc. Rain symbolizes rebirth, renewel and this closing piece provides resolution to the storyline (apologies for not discussing this further but it is very intricate and can be found in the liner notes. The music here is very cartharcic and causes one to analyze themselves in the same manner as Townsend's character.

Overal, this is a masterpiece of rock music. The timbre and songwriting are very progressive and this is a necessary album for any music fan. 'Quadrophenia' is an essential addition to a prog collection and builds upon the sonic explorations of Who's Next, creating something entirely new and equaling the power of their previous release. Ultimately, a maturing of the Who sound and their finest moment.

mr.cub | 5/5 |

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