The Who – It’s Hard

It’s Hard (1982)

B-

1. Athena 2. It’s Your Turn 3. Cook’s County 4. It’s Hard 5. Dangerous 6. Eminence Front 7. I’ve Known No War 8. One Life’s Enough 9. One At A Time 10. Why Did I Fall For That 11. A Man Is A Man 12. Cry If You Want

 

Pbbfffft… heh heh… I mean *snort* hahahaha……

……That’s what she said.

Phew. Glad I got that out of my system. And if you’re 14 years old like me and think the title is hilarious, just wait until you hear the title track… “It’s HAAARD! It’s VERY VERY VERY VERY HAAAAAAAAARD! SO VERY HAAAAAAAAAAARD!!!” Oh man, that’s some funny shit.

Which brings me to the album, at hand, which most people consider a huge boner (!!!!!!!). As for me, well, I think It’s 12 Inches When Hard would get its ass thumped by any of the Moon-era albums, including Who Are You. But I’ll go to my grave maintaining that it’s under-fucking-rated. At the very least, it’s a clear improvement over Face Dances, which sounded as though the band, Roger excepted, had been insidiously replaced with cream-colored blazer and skinny tie-wearing yuppie pod people. It’s Hard at least sounds like the Who. An old, creaky, and confused Who with increasingly questionable taste, but the Who nonetheless. Glyn Johns (Who’s Next) is back in the producer’s chair, so the mix is back to having real rock meat on its bones again, and there’s, like, actual Townshend-like guitar on here, something that was sorely lacking on Douche Dances. Like on “Cook’s County”… there’s not really much of a song there, but the riffing is lively and crunchy as can be expected of a nearly 40-year old Pete. Same deal for “Cry If You Want,” though there’s a lot more compositional heft to that one… the spitfire verses, the catchy “Ooooo, cry if you want” backing vocals on the chorus, even Kenney’s tappity tap military-style drumming – all absolutely A-OK in my book. Though I think the best part is still Pete’s rocking guitar outro.

OK, no, even the best parts of this album aren’t gonna blow your doors down like vintage Who, even for all its overtures to huffing and puffing with big heavy arena rock like they used to do (Entwistle’s dumb/bombastic mid-tempo—as if they played any other way around this time—rocker “It’s Your Turn,” which is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine but sounds like something a band of teenage hair metal fans would come up with if tasked with writing a generic ‘70s Who song and thus makes it pretty clear just how much power the band had lost since the Quadrophenia days). But in small parts of the record, I can detect at least ghosts of the old glories passing through. The most prominent example is the coldly atmospheric, clubby groove track “Eminence Front.” That little two note guitar riff is guaranteed to worm its way into your brain. The lyrics are just some boilerplate about how when people go to parties they act fake and do drugs (uh… DUH), but Pete’s delivery is downright terrified… this is a hell of a cool song. Following it is “I’ve Known No War,” which, with its one note synth pattern, is a second rate knockoff of the Who’s classic bombastic 70s epics. But when the model is “Baba O’Riley” or “Who Are You,” second rate isn’t so bad. At the very least, it’s right in Roger’s wheelhouse. For further highlights, I would direct you to the opener “Athena.” It’s cute and poppy, and Roger sounds as ridiculous singing it as he did the stuff on the last album (“I’m HAPPAYYYYYYY! I’m ECSTATIIIIC!!!” God, could he have been worse suited to this kind of material? I guess he could been the guy from Slipknot or something, so that’s positive). But I dig Pete’s “Just a girl, just a girl” bit, and the song has a hell of a lot more punch to it than… I keep wanting to say “anything on Face Dances,” but I keep forgetting how fucking fantastic a pop single “You Better You Bet” is, and how much I like “Another Tricky Day.” But other than those two, definitely.

So that’s the good half, which I consider perfectly listenable to any big Who fan. Of course, this being a Who album featuring Kenney Jones, there’s also a bad half, which I’d rather not spend too much time dissecting. Honestly, the less said about dreck like “One Life’s Enough,” “Why Did I Fall For That,” or Entwistle’s “Dangerous” (what the hell happed to the Ox’s songwriting after Moonie died? His tunes used to be witty and biting and catchy… what the hell is this ugly, “dramatic” synth rock with stone-faced, pseudo-philosophy lyrics? Blech), the better. The good news is that most of the crappy songs are on the second half of the disc, so you can just sort of turn this thing into an EP experience and avoid the bad taste in your mouth. You may be surprised how much you enjoy it. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m crazy.



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