On opening track “All This Music Must Fade,” Roger Daltrey kicks things off like this:
I don’t care
I know you’re gonna hate this song
And that’s fair
We never really got along
It’s not new, not diverse
It won’t light up your parade
It’s just simple verse
While cascading guitar riffs from Pete Townshend rip around. It’s a powerful way to start the first new record from the iconic band since 2006’s Endless Wire. The record has been in the works for a while, and after a two-week delay (it was originally slated for release on Nov. 22), it has arrived on the heels of the band’s incredible Moving On! orchestral tour. , which has since been extended into 2020.
When Rock Cellar’s Jeff Slate interviewed drummer Zak Starkey — who recorded with Townshend and Daltrey in the studio for this album — Starkey raved about the material, saying:
The album doesn’t sound like any previous Who albums, it has the vibe of a 2019 Who album. But it doesn’t sound old, it sounds brand new and super fresh.
Listening to the album, that’s very much the case. Recorded in the same way the band laid down tracks to Who’s Next and Quadrophenia, material for this album began as demos from Townshend, which were brought to the studio and worked on by Daltrey and the rest of the team — giving the whole thing a very collaborative feel, just as it should be.
These guys are living legends, and there’s a swagger and bravado on display throughout WHO that can’t be denied, whether looking back (such as the song above, “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise,”) or forays into intriguing new areas, such as with “Beads On One String’:
“I’ll Be Back,” meanwhile, features Townshend on lead vocals, and is a tender, laid-back love song of sorts. It’s a definite change-up from the “rock and roll band” elements of the rest of the record.
“Detour” adds a bouncy rhythm and hand claps to the proceedings, while sounding among the most “Classic Who”-ish of any song on the LP:
The album closes with three songs led by Townshend, including one that perfectly sums up the record — “Got Nothing to Prove,” which somehow sounds like it was recorded decades ago:
The end result is a record that has something for everyone, at least in terms of what fans might expect from the Who in 2019. Stream it below, via Spotify: