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The Who - Tommy CD (album) cover


The Who



3.97 | 546 ratings

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3 stars Ambitious and breaking new ground, but not a masterpiece.

Tommy finds The Who exploring longer, more connected and more ambitious themes in a double album concept that never really takes off and soars. It often aims for the grandeur and bombast of classic progressive rock, but end up feeling slightly powerless, flaccid (and in my view a bit silly) in the process.

And it is charming and pompous pseudo-classical motifs, horns and epic organ that together with the regular rock instrumentation confidently set the album in motion (this will be back now and then, like some other themes ' it's a concept after all). Restless, kinetic and energetic drumming from Moon as per usual, as he dances around the kit. The atmosphere is mostly warm, bright and kind of frisky, with a steady confidence and a perpetual drive forwards - an air of childlike and optimistic expectancy, if you will. And even in the decidedly darker songs, the tone doesn't really change all that much. Despite some valiant tries, a little more bite and a little more menace wouldn't hurt. Even if this makes the album very cohesive, it dynamically cripples Tommy. Part of this problem can also be found in the instrumentation and vocal arrangements. There is a lot of acoustic guitar on the album, and even if it's mostly playing riffs or being strummed it brings with itself a certain airiness. The electric guitar is often rather polite and unobtrusive, rather than gritty and rocking the way I expect it to be in the hands of Townshend. And then there's the orderly, pleasant background melodiousness of the keys. And the beautiful, tidy and harmonic vocal arrangements. All in all, it is a pleasant psych-infused 60s rock sound, that doesn't really rise to the occasion. This is especially clear since it is a proper rock opera, where songs are composed rather theatrically. Music tend to follow text on Tommy; in sudden exclamations, choruses, different characters, moods and so on. And for some reason, I think the style of the music is overstretched in such a compositional framework. It's just too light, pretty, stilted and square. It limits the available space for expression. And since Tommy goes on for a while, you have time to notice this disparity on several occasions. It's just a bit unwieldy and rarely as intriguing as it is made out to be.

But...and this is a big one, there are enough of great songs here to make most fans of classic rock very happy indeed. Especially the more naked and emotional pieces that doesn't feel as meticulously constructed are highlights. When Daltrey is allowed to live out the emotions properly and with a bit of zing and bite from Townshend and Entwistle, the magic seeps back in, both in rock form and atmosphere. And some of the tighter, more prog-and-psych-infused songs really do work in a feisty, non-apologetic and joyfully adventurous classic rock way. They sound as fresh, unique and vibrant today as they must have sounded in 1969.

3 stars.


LinusW | 3/5 |


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