Release Date: Dec 6, 2019
Record label: Interscope
It's not billed that way but given the Who's productivity since their initial split in 1982, it's difficult not to view 2019's Who as the band's final album. It's only their second album in 37 years, and if it takes them another 13 years to complete a third -- that's the length of time separating Who from 2006's Endless Wire -- both Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey will be well into their eighties, a seemingly unlikely age for new work by rockers. Then again, the Who have long outlived Townshend's youthful desire to die before he gets old, a fact he began to contend with during the mid-'70s, when he chronicled his middle-aged disappointment on Who by Numbers.
T he first words you hear on the Who's 12th studio album are Roger Daltrey, telling the band's audience to get stuffed. "I don't care," the band's 75-year-old frontman sings, "I know you're going to hate this song." There follows four and half minutes of agonising over whether there's any point in making a new Who album at all - "this sound that we share has already been played" - before songwriter Townshend signs off on All This Music Must Fade with a muttered "who gives a fuck?" This is obviously not the way heritage rock artists essaying their first album in 13 years are meant to carry on. Then again, it feels, well, very Who.
With their first album in over 13 years, it's difficult to know what a long-lasting band like The Who might release. It turns out, they haven't lost their touch. It's as if Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey jumped in a time machine when they produced this new album. It takes something to stay true to the original 'Who-ish' sound after 50 years in the game, but unlike so many others, this time they've managed to do so with impeccable form.
The Lowdown: Of all the original classic rock bands, The Who were perhaps the most committed ambassadors of youth. They insisted that the kids are alright, wrote entire operas from the adolescent perspective, and violently destroyed their instruments on stage, as if mocking the very idea of mortality. They did this with words, too: "Hope I die before I get old," snarled Roger Daltrey, 54 years ago, in "My Generation".