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New Songs - my take
Well, I thought I'd step in with a few of my
impressions of the new songs.
Both songs do sound like outtakes from the Under A
Raging Moon LP, almost as if Pete had written a couple
of other tracks for that album. Why The Who today
sound so 1985; I don't exactly know. Pete has sounded
more modern since; take "English Boy" on
Psychoderelict for instance or his guitar solo on
Bowie's "Slow Burn". The songs have a "well-made"
quality to them. There's a touch of the Tin-Pan Alley
approach with the soft open, the slow build, the space
for a musical break. Perhaps it's because these are
the first songs Pete's written for a while that led
him to "over-construct" them or perhaps it was the
constraint of using songs he and Roger improvised on
stage rather than his usual method of building from a
song title. He may also be trying to get away from his
usual loud-soft-loud song construction (or
soft-loud-soft as in "Behind Blue Eyes").
Thematically, both songs fall into the category of
everything Pete has written for The Who since
Quadrophenia (with the exception of some songs for
"It's Hard") in that the listener can only plumb the
songs' depth if he or she knows enough about Pete, The
Who and their personal history. It's a technique that
makes these songs play like private messages to Who
fans, almost like Internet diary entries from Pete set
to music. I'm sure both songs would baffle the average
"Real Good-Looking Boy" relates to two of Pete's
(1) the time when his parents commiserated with him
over his big nose and gave him the "I don't care if
I'm ugly, I won't be ignored!" attitude that drove his
performances with The Who. Pete: "I had a very strange
relationship with my mother. She was very beautiful
and married a good-looking man, then had this very
ordinary kid. She was loving, but I could sense her
confusion and disappointment. I somehow failed to
interest her once I stopped being a baby." The woman
at the end is not Pete's present girlfriend, but his
ex-wife Karen and comes from an
interview he once gave (that I can't seem to find in
my files right now) about how he couldn't believe such
a beautiful woman would want to marry and have
children with someone as ugly as him.
(2) the idea, the basis for "Rough Boys," that male
rock fans' interest in rock bands and rock stars is a
homosexual attraction that they refuse to acknowledge.
It's interesting that Pete finally got Roger to sing a
song with that theme!
"Old Red Wine" sounds simpler than "Real Good-Looking
Boy" but is, I think, the better song. Concerning
John's demise, it comes off at first as a sing-songy,
nostalgic lament but it doesn't take too much
scratching to realize the song bristles with barely
suppressed anger at John for dying. Most telling is
the lines "Old red wine/Not worth a dime" right after
the lines that reference the tart he was in bed with
at the time of his death. The line practically
screams, "how could you sniff cocaine to impress some
whore and kill yourself when I loved you so!" Pete's
guitar solo at the end re-states that anger musically.
Agree or disagree, it's good to see Pete getting the
anger and sadness out of his system by song instead of
by lifestyle, as he did after Moonie's death.
All in all, neither song is effective as a single and
certainly should do nothing with non-Who fans.
However, within the context of an album of similar
material, both could gain additional meaning. It does
seem, 'tho, that this new album is likely to center
around themes of death and regret. Perhaps a "Requiem
for My Generation"?
-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!
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