Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Who - Face Dances (1981)

I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T.Rex, and "Who's Next"....

  

Released on 16 March 1981

Running time 40.57

After a three year hiatus since 1978's slightly culturally-incongruous "Who Are You", The Who returned with a really good album. Punk's fires had burnt out and anything The Who came up with now was going to be met with more positivity. They had now become respected elder statesmen, as opposed to "boring old farts". There is less reliance on powerful keyboard riffs on this. Yes, they are still there but so are the guitars. Keith Moon is gone, but Kenney Jones is a good replacement. He lacks the unique all-out attack of Moon but he is certainly more than competent, as his long career with The Small Faces and The Faces had proved. Criticisms of him for not being Moon could be said to be somewhat churlish and unnecessary, I feel.

TRACK LISTING


1. You Better You Bet
2. Don't Let Go The Coat
3. Cache Cache
4. The Quiet One
5. Did You Steal My Money
6. How Can You Do It Alone
7. Daily Records
8. You
9. Another Tricky Day                                   

"You Better You Bet" is a latter-era (i.e. post Moon, post seventies) Who classic, full of pounding, beaty drums, excellent guitar, more subtle keyboards than on the previous album and a very strong Roger Daltrey vocal. The lyrics are great too, suitably perplexing and crudely sexual in places - "you welcome me with open arms and open legs...". I really loved the single back in 1981, feeling it was The Who roaring back with a vengeance. After I had forgotten about them considerably during my punk years, I was ready to welcome my old 1973 favourites back again. This track certainly did that.


"Don't Let Go The Coat" is a little-acknowledged Who classic. Not in a bombastic, grandiose way, but in a quirky, rhythmic way. It features an almost Brit-pop style jangly, melodic guitar riff underpinning it and Daltrey's vocal is softer and soulful here. There is a certain new wave-ish appeal to this and it sounded fine in 1981, not out of date in any way. "Cache Cache" is a semi-punky, upbeat rocker. Daltrey's vocal is a return to his hammy, overblown, dramatic style of the seventies. It contains an odd lyric in the repeated refrain "there ain't no bears in there, not a single bear in there...".

John Entwistle's "The Quiet One" is a very seventies-style Who rocker, which once more has a bit of a punky intensity to it. "Did You Steal My Money" sort of merges an early seventies Who sound with a funk rock rhythm. It is on this track that Kenney Jones sounds the most Keith Moon-like, for me. "How Can You Do It Alone" has an appealing, chugging rhythm and verses, although the chorus is very typical seventies-style Daltrey. The semi-spoken verse bits are the best bits. "Daily Records" has tiny hints of "Baba O'Reilly" in its piano intro. It is a quirkily attractive number. Dare I say that in the verses, the vocal/piano interplay sounds like ABBA in places.

"You" reverses the lyric from "You Better You Bet" in saying that "your arms are open but your legs are closed...". It is one of those songs that sounds like it was written for one of those aborted "concept albums" that Pete Townshend was often dabbling in. Except it was written, surprisingly, by John Entwistle. It has received a fair amount of criticism, but it isn't that bad at all. It rocks pretty hard, particularly at the end. "Another Tricky Day" could have come from ten years earlier, with its power and punch. Those old Townshend guitar interjections abound and Daltrey's vocal soars in that operatic way of his.

There were a fair few critics who panned this at the time, claiming the band had run out of material. I disagree. There's not a bad track on here and a vibrancy runs through the whole album. Personally, I much prefer this offering to both "Who Are You" and "The Who By Numbers". It is a good Who album.

B-

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