The Who, Face Dances
Why critics thought it sucked: For one thing, people were completely resentful of Pete Townshend for keeping the band together after Keith Moon died (despite replacing him with the Small Faces’/Faces’ Kenny Jones, one of the best drummers of all time). And for another, they put Pete Townshend into a tiny little bag—the only thing that would have made critics happy were endless re-dos of Who’s Next, which, before this album, is what he was doing, with increasingly diminishing returns (c’mon, you can’t deny that Who Are You was a huge step downwards from Who’s Next). Add in a little ironic synth/synth-pop hate (ironic ’cause Pete had been one of the first musicians to adopt the sequencer as a part of his sound, going back to the early ’70s) and you have a nice stew of hatred directed straight at this album.
Why it doesn’t suck: The songs, baby. They’re weird, sure—I mean, what the fuck is “Don’t Let Go the Coat” even about? And is the chorus to “Cache Cache” really “There ain’t no bears in there”? But honestly, this album is an extremely personal (and extremely fresh) look at Pete Townshend circa its release, when he was deep in the throes of depression and alcoholism, and the lyrics are full of uncertainty and sadness, married to some extremely chipper, new-wave-influenced pop songs that sound way more like the group’s mid-60s quirky stuff than people realize. I love the bounce of “How Can You Do It Alone,” and “You Better You Bet” and the driving, potent “Another Tricky Day” are among the group’s best. And even the album’s oddballs like “Did You Steal My Money” are a hell of a lot of fun. If you listen without preconceived notions of how the Who are “supposed” to sound, you’ll dig it.
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