The Who – Face Dances

Face Dances (1981)

C

1. You Better You Bet 2. Don’t Let Go The Coat 3. Cache Cache 4. The Quiet One 5. Did You Steal My Money 6. How Can You Do It Alone 7. Daily Records 8. You 9. Another Tricky Day

 

Hey everybody! I just downloaded a bunch of Yes albums! Wooo! I know that ever since punk happened nobody listens to prog rock except fifteen year-old nerds, and I’ve heard “I’ve Seen All Good People” on classic rock radio enough times to want to squeeze all the life out Jon Anderson’s little elvin pipes, but all my favorite web reviewers love Yes. It’s time to expand my musical horizons – fuck conventional wisdom.

Sometimes, though, conventional wisdom—like, for instance, that Who albums without Keith Moon blow donkey dick—is correct. Oh, I’m sure Face Dances got fine reviews when it came out, since it’s all hip to the yuppie new wave groove that was all the rage back in the early ‘80s. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the ultimate repository of all human knowledge, the Boston Globe’s original review called it the Who’s best album since Quadrophenia! Haha. Sure. And Herman Cain is the best black person since Martin Luther King.

OK, so the new drummer is Kenney Jones, formerly of the Faces (get the album title now? How punny!), who is no more than adequate behind the kit. I love the Faces and all, but Kenney failed noticeably at trying to fill Charlie Watts’ shoes when he played drums on the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll”… you think he was actually going to be able to fill Keith Moon’s? Besides Jonesy, the band has also added keyboard player John “Rabbit” Bundrick. Other than that, everything else is the same as before. Oh, except for all the bad songs. And the completely lifeless mix by Bill Szymczyk, who is best known for producing a bunch of Eagles albums (………). And the limp keyboard pop-lite style. And the highly obvious lack of balls. But yeah, other than that stuff, the Who are BACK! Yeah!

Enough sarcasm. The main reason Face Dances sucks is that Pete Townshend had totally given up on writing kickbutt rock music in favor of new wave-y pop songs. In other words, he’d given up on writing songs that made any sense for the Who to perform. Where these songs really belong are on one of Pete’s solo albums that came around this time. Or, more accurately, in the outtakes pile of one of Pete’s solo albums, because said albums are way, way better than Face Dances. 1980’s Empty Glass and 1982’s All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes are both excellent new wave-style pop-rock albums. New wave-style pop-rock was simply the mode that Pete was in during the early 80s, and the two aforementioned solo albums prove that Pete could do it very well. However, it’s a style completely unsuited to the Who. So as a result we get Roger sounding like a complete retard by singing these slicked over, lightweight pop songs like they were “Who Are You” or “The Real Me.” I mean, is the album’s sole hit, “You Better You Bet” a pretty darn great tune? Yeah – about as good as early 80s pop songs get, actually. But it would make about ten times more sense if placed on Empty Glass than it does with Roger yelping out dunderheaded lines like “You welcome me with open arms… and open legs!” (for evidence of this, see Pete’s excellent demo of the song on one of his Scoop albums).

Yup, these songs aren’t just totally unsuited to the band performing them – lyrically, they’re frequently embarrassingly stupid. The nonsensical hook line of “Cache Cache” (one of the only songs on here that actually tries to “rock,” but which is limp and dumb nonetheless), “there ain’t no bears in there” (huh?) isn’t the only flagrancy, either. And it sure doesn’t help when Pete sets his moronic couplets to shitty songs like “Did You Steal My Money” and “How Can You Do It Alone,” which combines really weird, creepy lyrics and a terrible, melodramatic chorus with a laughably inappropriate bagpipe solo to create the worst song on the album. Actually, that’s a tough call – is it really worse than Entwistle’s abominable pseudo-metal turd “The Quiet One”? Oh yeah, the Ox seems to have completely lost the ability to write a decent song as well – his other track is “You,” which sounds like it was written by an airport lounge comedian. “One look and I’m hooked! One touch and my goose is cooked!” No, that’s actually a line in the song, I swear. Couple the lyrics with the hair metal-like music, and the song definitely qualifies for “so bad it’s funny” status. I wouldn’t skip it if it came on the radio, which is more than I can say about half of this stuff.

Besides “Your Butter, Your Butt,” there are only two songs I actually enjoy all the way through. The jangly, low-key popper “Don’t Let Go The Coat” is about as far away from heavy duty Who-style rock as James Taylor, but at least it’s pleasant and melodic and doesn’t contain any lyrics that make me wonder if Pete had been spending a lot of time jabbing steak knives into his brain stem.  And “Another Tricky Day” is damn good, and honestly one of the Who’s more underappreciated songs. It’s not a return to the mighty Who of old or anything (please, don’t listen to this album expecting anything like that – or better yet, don’t listen to it at all and just download the good songs), just another feel good pop tune… but it’s the only song on the album where Pete’s riffing has any real power behind it, Pete and Roger’s harmonies are spot on, and it’s got a pretty Quadrophenia-esque bridge. There’s real life to it, which is hardly the case for the rest of this dickless swill. Honestly, it’s all produced so tastefully and smoothed over that probably none of it is gonna offend you as badly as, say, Dirty Work. But it just… sucks. Its sin is its lifelessness.



One Comment

  1. Name * wrote:

    Agreed! Townsend’s writing definitely changed after the death of Keith Moon.


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