Who Are You (The Who) – Album Review

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on November 4, 2009

The Cover Of Who Are You Has True Tragic Relevance - Keith Moon Was To Die Shortly Before The Album Was Released

The Cover Of Who Are You Has True Tragic Relevance - Keith Moon Was To Die Shortly Before The Album Was Released

The final Who album featuring Keith Moon is a mostly distinguished way for the original lineup to bow out, although there are many particularities that make the LP a disc like no other within their catalog. First thing first: Moon has lost a great deal of ability, to the point that he couldn’t play “Music Must Change” (Pete’s footsteps set the basic rhythm). He does manage to drum adequately enough on “Sister Disco” and the popular title track. He also puts up a sparky performance all through “Guitar And Pen”. But his magic skills and touch are missing.

In second place, Pete emphasizes notes over chords for the first time in their career. That doesn’t make the album any better or worse than other Who offerings. It just makes it a bit peculiar. And structurally speaking, he has Roger sing a recitative lyric on “Guitar And Pen”. The one song in which they had done this before was “Helpless Dancer“, only that the vocal is far, far campier this time around. “Helpless Dancer” was notably more measured and (if you wish) less theatrical.

Besides, out of 9 songs only six are penned by Pete. The remaining three come from an aborted opera John had tried to assemble (“905” and “Had Enough”), while he serves up the loud “Trick Of The Light” (about a man falling in love with a prostitute). But this time around, he lets Roger take the lead. He only sings “905”. He would sing “Trick Of The Light” live, though:

The main value of this album is the actual content of the songs, as the lyrics deal with artists and their never ending struggle to remain evergreen and motivating to those who follow them. This is evident on “Guitar And Pen” (“never spend your guitar and your pen”), “New Song” (“we sing the same old song with a few new lines/and everybody wants to cheer it”) and the ambitious “Music Must Change”.

For its part, a chance encounter with the Sex Pistols at the Speakeasy the night Pete had settled with his ex-managers produced the title track. I must say it might be the one of their truly revered tunes that I really don’t dig at all. But I can see every ingredient has been tastefully combined: a circling synth arrangement, a savage vocal, cascading drums… it is a “classic” Who song. But not necessarily a dish that has the most delectable ingredients will appeal to every palate.

The CD remaster adds quite fillerish bonus tracks in the shape of alternate – and undistinguishable – takes, albeit there is a demo of Pete named “No Road Romance” that would have fit in comfortably on the album. And the rerelease’s saving grace are the liner notes by Matt Resnicoff, who gives every single other writer who took a turn at annotating the new albums a run for their money.

Just like the previous album, the appeal of “Who Are You” is circumscribed to fans. Since thematically speaking it is not that harsh, it is somehow more approachable. But only those who had been contemplating the thoroughfare The Who had been traversing and the many detours they had taken could understand its true importance.

Rating: 7.5/10

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