September 24, 2020

1981-04-05 – Daily Record

1981 04 05 Daily_Record_Sun__Apr_5__1981_

o r c u 8 Staff Music Critic
Warner Brothers HS 3516

Coming after Pete Townshend's vibrant and
supremely confident solo album of last year.
FACE DANCES is a big disappointment. If
THE WHO BY NUMBERS was the work of mu-
sicians wracked with seIf-doubt. and WHH
ARE YOU that of a dying band. this is faceless
corporate rock. taking no risks and offering no
surprises. Its sleek production values make it
(it right in with the music on the radio right
now (the top three albums this week are by
Styx. R.E.O. Speedwagon and Rush). but since
when do the Who play in that league?

It‘s been a long time since the Who made a
truly great album. Listening to their early re-
cords. one hears a straight line of development
and refinement from “I Can’t Explain"
through TOMMY, the peak of early Whostyle.
Stagnation and aimlessness set in on LIVE AT
LEEDS. until Townshend heroically reinvent-
ed the band's style for WHO'S NEXT. adding
synthesizer and exploiting the resources of the
studio for the first time. But it onlv took him
one more album to bring the new style to its The Who
summit. 0" QUADROPHENIA~ 3’“ since ”‘9" than their original producer. Glyn Johns —

he's been unable to perform the miracle again who. to bring things funfircle. eo-produced

-10 PQJ'UVBMW the band a 5900'“ time. WHO'S NEXT. l No. if anyone is to blame for
In this context Townsht‘nd's EMPTY GLASS the lackluster qualities of FACES DANCES.
came as a huge surprise. He confronted the it’s the band mommy“.

English punk bands — his own spiritual chil-
dren — on “Rough Boys." and faced down
British journalists insensitive to the death of
Keith Moon on “Jools and Jim.“ Both tracks
were angrier and more driving than anything
he'd managed in years; both featured his
toughest guitar playing.

The fact that Townshend sings no lead meals
on FACE DANCES (John Entwistle has one.
his own "The Quiet Une”) is probabl} signifi-
eant: the implication is that he's surrendering
the band to Roger Daltrey. leaving his own
statements for his solo records. But Daltrey's
singing has deteriorated steadily since QUA-
DROI’HENIA. His vocal on Entwistle‘s "You"
makes that song interchangeable with some of
the monstrosities from Daltrey‘s recent solo
projects (in “Daily Records" it‘s the ungainly
lyric that trips him up.

FACES DANCES is not without its plea-
sures. “Don‘t Let Go the Coat" is gentle and
folky. in the manner of Townshend‘s collabora
tion with Ronnie Lane. ROUGH MIX. And the
album's hit single almost compels you to sing
along with its "You better. you better. you bet'
chorus. But it’s a cheap hook, like being
ensnared by a TV commercial.

Producer Bill Szymzyck, also the Eagles'
producer. is already being set up as this al~
bum‘s villain, but it‘s unfair to blame him for
its lack of punch. If anything. it would benefit
from more of his characteristic hard-roeking
studio sound, as exemplified by his early-70s
productions for the J. Geils Band and the
James Gang. (The Eagles chose Szymczyk be-
cause he gave them a more aggressive sound