Saturday, July 30, 2011

Album Review: The Who By Numbers

2011 has been a magical year in many respects. We've seen Lebron James be exposed, the US political system is about to create a crisis that will finally shock the working class into movement against their profane masters, and my life long dream of seeing my beloved Boston Bruins capture Lord Stanley's Cup came true.

But nothing that happened this year has been more important than the development of Grantland. Finally, the vanguard of the intellectual class has congregated in one place to provide round the clock coverage of sports, music and entertainment. My fellow Bostonian Bill Simmons (perhaps spurred on by the greatness of the Bruins?) created this forum of ideas and has populated it with a Who's Whom of great writers. Chief amongst them is Chuck Klosterman. His minute by minute breakdown of Led Zeppelin's In the Evening has inspired me to begin doing track by track reviews of the great albums of rock.

We begin with The Who By Numbers. Following up greatness has always been a difficult task. From Lenin to Rodenberry, those who succeed greatly have trouble following it up with something as amazing (this may befall my beloved Bruins, who, following the greatest season in NHL history, will be hard pressed to win next year's Cup in such exciting fashion). In 1973 The Who released Quadrophenia, the greatest album ever. Would the follow up be another classic, or their version of Earth: Final Conflict?

The answer is that it was, like the Bruins, perfect.

Track 1 - Slipkid

The sound of clapping and a countdown begin The Who's post Quadrophenia efforts. When Pete Townshend's mighty guitar roars onto the scene it becomes clear what will happen with this album. Roger Daltrey's vocals are as to be expected, hitting every note with more passion than I feel for Ray Bourque. We see what The Who By Numbers will be about. Gone are the synthesisers and the massive layers of overdubs. In their places are descriptions of Townshend's alcoholism, lust, and self-loathing, as well as the dark side of creeping "middle age"[clarification needed] and the fear of irrelevance.
No less powerful is the lyrical description of a young man forced into the life of a soldier. Obviously, this song was an examination of the Angolan Civil War, and the listener is taken into the shoes of a staunch anti-imperialist who is fighting for freedom. The guitar solo suggests that we may even be a Cuban national fighting for the international brotherhood. A truly bold choice, Mr. Townshend.
The song concludes with the lament "No easy way to be free." What true words! Freedom requires a great sacrifice, of blood, sweat, money and experimentation. These four minutes and thirty two seconds of greatness extol the virtues of international brotherhood of workers, the fight for freedom, and that special something that makes the world bearable.

Track Two - However Much I Booze

In a bold choice, The Who turn from the theme of the class struggle to expand on the "easy way to be free." Here, Messrs. Townshend and Daltrey (doing an amazing impression of Pete's vocal styles) sing about the false hope offered by alcohol. Now, I am certainly no Prohibition Patty, and have enjoyed a brew or two in my life. But when Roger Daltrey screams "There ain't no way out" it suggests that alcohol doesn't offer such a way out, but perhaps, something else does?
These two tracks serve to illuminate the real message of this album: that only through the class struggle and experimentation with the limits of the mind can we find "a way out" to "be free."

Track Three - Squeezebox

A jaunty little number full of sexual innuendo. But, only on the surface. This is one of the few mistakes on the album. Lyrically, the song works as what it is intended to be: a furtherance of the theme of the work needed to be done to improve our lives. Unfortunately, some weak musical choices turn it into much lighter fare, edible by even young children.
Thankfully, the song reaches its full potential in, of all things, a cover version by the normally ineffectual Poison. The problem with Poison, of course, being their inane lyrics. Every rose does indeed have its thorns, sir, but such trite and obvious observations are better left to American Idol contestants and the ladies from The View. This leads me to an interesting question: would Poison, solely playing the works of Pete Townshend, become the most revolutionary band ever? Judge for yourself (WARNING: Viewing this video may lead to you reexamine your preconceptions about the world):

Simply, amazing. The true spirit of this song is unleashed. Note, too, please, that this took place on the underrated Craig Kilborn's show, a man constantly hounded by the soulless minions of orthodoxy, first being replaced on ESPN for a gaggle of idiots, then on The Daily Show by that petty-bourgeois clown John Stewart, then finally by the reactionary Craig Ferguson. Perhaps we need Mr. Kilborn back on our TVs now, more than ever.

Track Four - Dreaming From the Waist

Another classic, another call to arms, another song that the braindead classes think is purely about sex. What is it about the louts, drunkards, jocks, thirstyboys, and ruffians that cause them to think only in terms of their member? Is it, perhaps, the lack of confidence they hold in it? Some sort of Oedipal obsession? Or is society at fault?
"Dreaming from the waist on down" refers to dreaming with the part of one's body that allows movement. What movement? Perhaps, the inevitable march towards a more equitable society. Or the movement towards enlightenment. Or even a jaunty walk down the street that allows the mind and soul to soar up above the trees and look down upon the world and to see it for what it truly is.
Sadly, this song is also very insensitive towards paraplegics.

Track Five - Imagine a Man

One of the more difficult songs to understand. Seemingly, this should be quite easy to play, but I'm not sure if that's an A minor or A major 7th in the fourth bar of the refrain. Also, moving from an open B to arpeggiated 1/8ths through the D scale? Not at all easy, I assure you. I think I may have this one done soon. Video will be posted, worry not.

Track Six - Success Story

Not bad.

Track Seven - They Are All in Love


Track Eight - Blue Red and Grey

Ukulele intros = FUCK YEAH!

Track Nine - How Many Friends

"How many friends have I really got?" Clearly, this song was written by someone without a cat.

Track Ten - In a Hand or a Face
Eagles just signed Cullen Jenkins.

Final Grade: 9.5/10

The NFL is back, and so am I!

Pretty pumped to have the NFL back. Hoping the Pats don't "stand pat" and mix some things up. The end of last season left a sour taste in my mouth, losing to that joke of a team from New Jersey and the fat coach and therapist quarterback. Sadly, the titans of industry that run the NFL know where their bread is buttered and that by putting the Jets into the AFC Championship Game, over the small market, upstart Patriots, they will see more dollars that they can use to fuel their conspiracies and engineer wars against the people of Libya. Following up on the heels of the 2010 screwjob against the Ravens, the 2008 season being destroyed by Robert Geathers fulfilling Paul Tagliabue's dying wish, and The Catch That Shall Not Be Named (which any clear thinking person can see was obviously an incomplete pass), the conspiracy against the Pats is more obvious than the CIA's use of Mark David Chapman to silence John Lennon. But I think if we can sign Robert Gallery that will turn it all around.

I know I haven't kept up with you all as much as I should, but it's been a long strange journey. I'll recap you all as to where I've been for the last three years, but suffice to say, it's been.... memorable? I've also been keeping a journal, from which I will, if whimsy leads me there, treat you all to some of my humble musings. It's good to be back.

And fuck