Release Date: Nov 15, 2011
Record label: Geffen
Pete Townshend revisited the rock opera concept with another double-album opus, this time built around the story of a young mod's struggle to come of age in the mid-'60s. If anything, this was a more ambitious project than Tommy, given added weight by the fact that the Who weren't devising some fantasy but were re-examining the roots of their own birth in mod culture. In the end, there may have been too much weight, as Townshend tried to combine the story of a mixed-up mod named Jimmy with the examination of a four-way split personality (hence the title Quadrophenia), in turn meant to reflect the four conflicting personas at work within the Who itself.
Tommy was first. The Who's 1969 opera legitimized the improbable union of rock abandon and extended narrative, and marked guitarist Pete Townshend's great leap forward as a composer and as his band's conceptual general. But Quadrophenia, released in 1973, was a superior tale with more-taut songwriting; it was grounded in Townshend's memories of growing up angry, anguished and mod in the early Sixties, and produced with the panoramic tension of Who's Next.
Pete Townshend’s personal high-water-mark revisited in glorious detail. Ian Winwood 2011 There are certain albums from the 1970s the brilliance of which must be taken on trust by listeners of today. If you weren’t in the neighbourhood of Ladbroke Grove in 1976, The Clash’s first LP sounds fairly far from revolutionary. If you weren’t around to hear the Ramones emerge as the fastest band in the world – before Bad Brains came along, that is – then the New Yorkers’ self-titled debut sounds slower than a solar-powered milk-float on a December morning.
Crashing power chords, titanic bass runs, hair-raising bellows, drum-kit thunder – the roar of "The Real Me" leaves no doubt that Quadrophenia is quintessential Who. But it's more than just a reiteration of the UK quartet's strengths. Cut for cut, Quadrophenia is the most consistent LP in the Who's oeuvre, its intricate construction and clear delivery leaving zero room for filler.