It seems rather strange that I'm reviewing a The Who album that's not part of a retrospective. The duo of Daltrey and Townshend have re-convened in the recording studio for the first time in well over a decade, and it's hard to know what to expect from a couple of guys in their mid-70s, an age at which many start going into care homes.
But older bands seem to be on somewhat of a hot streak right now and The Who are no exception. Daltrey and Townshend have made a great classic rock album and it sits comfortably alongside their back catalouge, exuding the energy of a band one-third of their age and showing that they're not out of juice or creativity yet.
WHO doesn't stray too far from what their tried-and-tested sound (with Detour ending how Baba O'Riley begins), but modern twists can be found throughout, with synths often popping up and samples being dotted throughout. The duo have found a multitude of ways to enhance their classic sound using modern techniques, showing that they're not merely doing this for a pay cheque. A creative streak remains, a determination to still sound fresh and up-to-date, without compromising on the sort of stuff that got them there in the first place.
There's plenty of variety to keep the ears appeased. Whilst there's plenty of the heavy rock sound, there's a couple of ballads, including 'I'll Be Back', which slow it down and allow the ears to take a slight break from the louder tracks. These are welcome; 10 straight tracks of a full-volume Daltrey may have just overdone it slightly. Instead, we get a good mix of song styles which help to keep it fresh throughout.
This record isn't one of two old men phoning it in. There's a youthfulness, a tenacity, a dedication to fighting their age and not letting it get in the way. Daltrey's voice sounds particularly impressive; he obviously hasn't lost any power and he sounds much the same now as he always has done, which isn't always the case.
It's not all brilliant, and it doesn't hit the heights of the true classics. But surely that's to be expected; we're talking about a band who hardly record and two people who, if truth be told, barely see or speak to each other. This album was recorded separately, with communication happening via the producers on either side of the Atlantic. But that only makes the quality of this record all the more impressive.
The Who have done it again. Keith Moon would have been proud of his bandmates, not only for carrying on with the band but also for doing it with the heart and spirit that made them special in the first place. The duo have released a strong record with creativity and variety sprinkled throughout, in sharp defiance of their elder years. They're showing no signs of slowing down, or turning it down, until they join their old friend in rock heaven. Let's hope that isn't for a while yet.