As time goes by, there are very few artists, whose sound is utterly recognizable, still making music. The Who might not release music consistently, but when they do, they solidify their place in musical history. It has been 13 years since their last album and according to Roger Daltrey in an interview with The New York Times, he has no idea who he really is. However, even on the first listen of their new album, Who makes it more obvious who Daltry, and The Who are.
The Who has an unbelievable ability to make a four-minute song sound like a 15-minute epic. They drag you in and sit you down, allowing you to be seeped in their music from head to toe. “Rockin In Rage” is an example of this. It has a vague stage show musical sound that is paired with a dramatic string section in the background. But the thing that keeps you really engaged is that base-line. With it’s Steely Dan-esque key changes, it really keeps you listening. The constant shift between melodic phrases and cinematic rock bridges, Daltrey and Townshend brings us right back The Who’s most valuable asset; their ability to push for artistic innovation through their music. They might be older but this track proves that they are far from redundant.
The Who has always been known for standing up and shouting when it’s needed, especially for teens and young adults. However, their political voice has shifted from the children left behind to prisoners left behind in their track “Ball and Chain”. This bluesy track is aggressive without being wild and is a pointed musical roar directed at the US government and their dealings surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Daltry channels a little bit of Tom Waits and growls through the track. It’s rousing. It’s political. And it’s pure rock and roll.
With a mix mash of rock opera, pseudo-psychedelic songs, and Daltry’s age-defying voice, Who could be used as an introduction to The Who for new fans. While some tracks are off the mark, there are some that really hit home, making Who the perfect album to sit down and enjoy in one sitting.
If you are lucky enough to buy the deluxe version of Who, you will be graced by the wonderful addition “Got Nothing To Prove”. According to Daltry, this was originally penned in the ’60s but was never seriously considered as an addition to any of their albums. It is hazy, simplistic and with the bright strings and well-rounded woodwind section, it is a wonderful surprise at the end of an album. All proving that they, indeed, have nothing to prove anymore.