I am more skeptical than most about the prospect of a new music released by the Who. I’ve long operated with an instinctual suspicion about the merits of reunited bands, and I defer to my fine friend’s judgment that it was acceptable (just barely) for the Who to persist after the untimely demise of drummer Keith Moon, but maintaining the iconic moniker after bassist Entwistle passed away was a musical bridge too far. The remaining band members — lead singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend — are both solidly into their seventies, which isn’t necessarily disqualifying in this age of entertaining in perpetuity, but does sit a little awkwardly for an act that essentially made their mark by trailblazing the art of channeling youthful anger into rhythm, melody, and sledgehammer guitar sound. If nothing else, the rust that must have settled is considerable. The band’s pending release, Who, is only their second since 1982, and it’s been over twenty-five years since Townshend found enough new songs in him to release a solo album.
Anticipating all the preemptively arched eyebrows, the latest track from the Who essentially opens with Daltrey belting, “I don’t care/ I know you’re going to hate this song.” From there, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound exactly, perfectly like the Who. Daltrey’s voice is powerful, Townshend’s guitar work intricate and inventive, and a caustic sensibility scorching the whole thing. It sounds vintage and brightly new all at the same time. Even the song’s title, “All This Music Must Fade,” signals the product is shorn of sentiment. Without regret or simpering entitlement, the Who place themselves as just another band on the long continuum of rock ‘n’ roll, influencers to those who followed just as they themselves swiped chords and riffs and attitudes from their predecessors. So here’s another new song, they say, take it or leave it. To my surprise, I’ll take it.