We have seen bands shut down after losing a key member, and we have seen them carry on, to mixed results. To the unfamiliar listener, I’m sure many people would look at the Who and ask, “how much of a difference can a drummer make, as long as the singer and lead songwriter are still with the group?” While that may be true for many acts, the loss of Keith Moon is painfully apparent on today’s album, “Face Dances”. Combine that with Peter Townshend still being deeply mired in his struggles with alcoholism, you have a very tepid and mostly uninteresting album. Many of these songs sound like they might be a better fit as Townshend solo material, as they don’t really sync up with Roger Daltrey’s power rock star voice.
There are three songs that stand out, two of which were the featured tracks on the album. The record opens with “You Better You Bet”. A softer single, that has the lyrics and style of a Townshend track, it lacks all the rough edges of the power-chord Who legacy. It is an appealing melody and an entertaining story, so that helps to raise it a notch above the rest on this album. My favorite track on this record by far is “Another Tricky Day”. It is the only Townshend track on the album that seems worthy of being included in his better work. This song grabs you quickly, and there is some really nice harmonizing from Pete and Roger. It is also the one track where Kenney Jones, who had the impossible task of trying to replace Keith Moon, fills in admirably. Kenney Jones, who once placed in the Faces with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, is a very solid and steady drummer, not unlike Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones. Unfortunately, the Who was built on the frenetic and uncontrollable bursts of Keith Moon, and this is extremely tame by comparison, even on the best track on the album.
Probably the most interesting song on the album is the autobiographical track “The Quiet One”, written and sung by bassist John Entwistle, reflecting to the stereotypical reputation many bassists like himself has as the quiet and reserved member of the group. The song really rocks and has one of my favorite lyrics, “I’m not quiet, everyone else is too loud”. Well said, John. The only thing that really holds this song back is the fact that John sings it, and there is a reason why Roger and Pete do most of the singing in this band.
The rest of the album has gimmicky songs like “Cache Cache” and “Did You Steal My Money” that are just annoying, and most of the others are just bland and dull. I respect and appreciate the band for moving on and trying to carry on the legacy of the group, but this first attempt is not a great one.