Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Who--My Generation (1965)



1. Out in the Street; 2. I Don't Mind; 3. The Good's Gone; 4. La-La-La Lies; 5. Much Too Much; 6. My Generation; 7. The Kids are Alright; 8. Please, Please, Please; 9. It's Not True; 10. I'm a Man; 11. A Legal Manner; 12. The Ox


First thing's first: there's an American version of this (known as The Who Sing My Generation) that has a slightly different track list, but I downloaded the British version, mainly due to the fact that the instrumental section of "The Kids are Alright" got excised from the American version for reasons unknown. Anyway, this here is the debut album for "A very nice band, Great Britain's The 'Oo," and it's pretty damn good, especially considering that rock and roll was still very much a singles medium and albums were still largely a vehicle to shove a couple of singles in amongst some unremarkable covers. Three quarters of this album, however, is original, which was a very high number for the epoch, and the fact that I'm even bothering to review a mid-60s debut is proof enough that this is worth my time.

Now, there are some people who think that the Who never made better music than the "Maximum R&B" style they pioneered on this debut, before the rock operas, synth loops, and Pete's innumerable mid-life crises, and even if I vehemently disagree, I can see where hardcore punk fans, for instance, would definitely consider this the cream of the crop, as other than a few non-album singles they'd never sound this raw again in the studio (live, on the other hand…). Me, well, my tastes lean more towards what they did later, so I consider this album a mite overrated when compared to other albums in the band's oeuvre that don't get as much recognition. The "Maximum R&B" is certainly quite good, and would only be improved on throughout their career, but I prefer the Who after they added some elements of art-rock, Townshend refined his songwriting style, Daltrey developed his voice more, and Entwistle started writing songs. The bare bones for all of those things (barring the Entwistle songs, obviously) are here, but I think that the album provided the band with something to work on and build from, not perfection that tinkering with would only fuck up. The biggest strike against the album, and I'm sure even those who do hold this album in the highest regard won't begrudge me this, is that the R&B covers included at Roger Daltrey's behest are fucking terrible. At the time, Roger was clearly the weakest link in the group (a few choice cuts aside, such as the title track here, he didn't really hit his stride until Tommy), and both "I Don't Mind" and "Please, Please, Please" aptly show that this type of singing is simply not his forte, and to make matters worse, the band doesn't sound entirely comfortable playing these songs either (the third cover, "I'm a Man," is tolerable if nothing to write home about). Shit, I'd rather listen to Keith sing Beach Boys songs, and least there's some entertainment value there! Oh well, at least the songs are short, but axe them and you're still at less than 30 minutes of music, so they end up costing the album a rating point.

I don't want anyone to go away with the impression that this is a bad album, however. In fact, all eight of the Townshend songs on here are at least good, and many are great. The best, of course, is the title track, a defiant teenage anthem where Roger actually sounds great and John provides of the first if not the first, bass solos in rock history. Now, I think the bass is severely underused as a lead instrument in rock music, but then again few knew how to use it like Mr. Entwistle did. The song doesn't sound a bit dated today (well, other than that "hope I die before I get old" line being rasped out by a 60-something Roger Daltrey…), even with its use of 60s slang, and will always live on as one of the quintessential generational anthems. Nearly as good, though, is "The Kids are Alright," which has a completely impeccable melody and some superb drumming from Keith Moon, who at the age of 18 already had one of the most awesome drumming styles rock music would ever see. I mean, I'm almost the age Keith was when they recorded this album, and I can barely even review the damn thing! Anyway, shame the US release excised the instrumental section towards the end for absolutely no reason, but US record companies did some absolutely retarded shit when it came to releasing UK artists in the 60s (Piper at the Gates of Dawn didn't even have "Astronomy Domine" on it, for God's sake!), but thankfully by about 1970 or so they realized that both sides of the Atlantic could enjoy the same album, and CD reissues largely fixed the issue (which makes the absolute clusterfuck that is the early AC/DC catalog doubly annoying, considering they somehow managed to fail on both counts...but I digress).

None of the other songs quite manage to reach these heights, but another minor classic comes in the form of "A Legal Matter," featuring Pete's first lead vocal, and proves that in addition to being a witty songwriter he had a decent set of pipes that would frequently be used to counterbalance Daltrey's yowling. "La-La-La-Lies" has an absolutely ace melody, and some killer harmonies during the chorus, and closing instrumental "The Ox" (the only song in the whole Who discography where Townshend, Entwistle, and Moon share a credit) has fantastic playing from all the bandmembers, particularly John (for whom the song is named) and session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins. That's about it for the highlights, but all of Pete's other songs are more or less enjoyable. Unfortunately, the instrumentalists seemed content at this stage to just provide backing music, and neither Pete's lyrics nor Roger's singing (especially Roger's singing) had yet reached the stage where they could consistently fuel a song on their own. They all have great melodies, though, especially "The Good's Gone." Pete Townshend may have done some absolutely retarded shit post-Quad, but one thing I will never accuse the man of is not knowing his way around a melody.

So, in conclusion, My Generation is certainly a bit of a flawed album, and is far from the best Who album, although many, many groups would love to come out with an album as good as this. At this point, though, The Who were a singles band, with many great songs not even appearing on albums, which means that they managed to craft a 12-worthy album comprised largely of filler, and with the atrocious covers. Just think...if Pete was writing filler as good as "La-La-La Lies," imagine how good the albums will get once he's focused on the album as the medium of choice.

1 comment:

  1. You're right. The Who really make their mark with "Who's Next." Baba O'Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, Won't Get Fooled Again...