The Who – Who’s Last

Who’s Last (1984)

C+

1. My Generation 2. I Can’t Explain 3. Substitute 4. Behind Blue Eyes 5. Baba O’Riley 6. Boris The Spider 7. Who Are You 8. Pinball Wizard 9. See Me Feel Me 10. Love, Reign O’er Me 11. Long Live Rock 12. Long Live Rock (Reprise) 13. Won’t Get Fooled Again 14. Doctor Jimmy 15. Magic Bus 16. Summertime Blues 17. Twist And Shout

 

Terrible. The Who sleepwalk through their greatest hits in a manner so rote it’s simply impossible to imagine that anyone involved was in it for anything but the big fat paycheck. Most outrageously of all, the band’s 1982 tour, from which Who’s Last is culled, was supposed to be their “farewell tour.” I mean, sure, they all hated each other’s guts by this point so I’m sure it seemed like the end at the time. But isn’t that hilarious? After “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Pete even announces that “this is our last concert in the States,” which is like me saying the dump I took this morning is “the last shit I’ll ever take in the States” when I know taco night is coming up on Sunday. They’ve been staging reunion tours for 23 years now (since 1989), which is five years longer than the time between the release of their first single in 1964 and the ’82 tour. For chrissakes, this fall the aged Two are touring Quadrophenia for the second time in fifteen years. And the third time overall. Third time’s a charm, I’m sure (to be fair, the ’96-’97 Quad tour was fucking awesome, and probably a lot better than the original ’73 tour, which was a disaster, known mostly for malfunctioning tape loops and Keith passing out and during the tour’s opening night and having to be replaced by an audience member. Anyway, the ‘90s version is on DVD now – check it out).

Actually, the whole false advertising thing isn’t the most outrageous thing about this album. (I’m actually glad this isn’t the last thing we ever heard from the Who. That would just be sad. They got a chance to redeem themselves on subsequent tours, and they did – at least in comparison to the complete lack of a shit-giving they display here). It’s not even that the tracklist features the most predictable choices in the entire universe, and includes but a single post-Quadrophenia track (that being, of course, “Who Are You”). The only curveball on this whole thing is “Doctor Jimmy” from Quad.

No, ultimately, the worst thing about this album is that the band sounds like total shit. (Well, except for John. He always rules, and he’s still doing his Thunderfingers thing about as well as he ever did). It would be easy to blame Kenney Jones, but I won’t do that. Sure, it’s impossible not to listen to his lame attempts at recreating Moon’s fills and think, “what the FUCK is he doing?” Since the performances here are pretty much all formulaic copies of the studio versions, comparisons on the part of the listener, whether intentional or not, to his predecessor’s work are unavoidable. But Kenney’s simply not the only culprit here… Pete’s guitar sounds like it was set to the Garageband plugin “Dreamy Shimmer.” Ain’t no crunchy Leeds-style riffage within five miles of this thing. Pete’s playing is totally competent and all, and I’ll admit he conjures some brief moments of excitement in “I Can’t Explain” and “Fooled” and a couple others, but it’s as though his six-string had all the life sucked out of it.

But worst of all is fucking Roger Daltrey, who turns in the most atrocious live vocal performances imaginable by a rock singer who isn’t present day Bob Dylan. His voice is so shot that you can barely hear the fucker at all for most of this thing, and when you can, he literally sounds as though he’s about to die (“Love, Reign O’er Me,” which actually made me laugh out loud—erm, LOL—several times due to the sheer vocal ineptitude). I mean, his singing on “Baba O’Riley” sounds roughly like what it sounds like when I sing it during St. Kilpat’s after seven Irish Car Bombs and before Colin Taylor plays the violin solo on a vuvuzela. Absolutely horrendous.

In summary, avoid this album. It gets a grade as high as C+ based only on the strength of the songs themselves, just about all of which just so happen to be among the greatest compositions is rock history, and which remain classics in spite of the 80s Who’s attempts to completely suck all their former power and glory out of them. By the time they get to “Magic Bus,” with its “witty” banter and shitty unimaginative rearrangement, I really start to hate the pricks for pretending to enjoy themselves when they’ve foisted this massive rip off upon us. Oh, and the best song on the album is a goofy version of “Twist And Shout” sung by John all Beatleishly, which would seem to have been included in the set half-ironically but which turns out to be pretty fun. Everything else basically sucks. Fuck this thing.



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