Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Petra Haden Sings

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 25 06:19:34 CST 2005


4 and a half stars out of 5

I'd love to know who signed off on an a capella
version of "The Who Sell Out" with Petra Haden of That
Dog doing everything from Keith Moon's drums to the
madcap circus-music horns of "Heinz Baked Beans" to
Pete Townshend's feedback squalls, using only her
voice. But thank Mike Watt for putting such a dumb
idea in her head. A ridiculous concept taken to
ridiculous extremes, this bold approach to one of rock
'n' roll's true masterpieces is as entertaining as it
is ambitious, which you could not say about the last
big a capella album, Bjork's "Medulla." 

There are flaws here -- lagging tempos, parts not
syncing up, blown lyrics. How in God's name, one might
wonder, did she miss the final line in "Heinz Baked
Beans"? And Haden's otherwise endearing take on "I Can
See for Miles" suggests her sight is better than her
hearing when she hits the line "The Eiffel Tower and
the Taj Mahal are nice to see on clear days."
Actually, they're "mine" to see on clear days. Or
maybe she meant to sing it wrong in subliminal tribute
to what Roger Daltrey would have done at Leeds, where
he famously blew the words to nearly every song he
covered, in which case, as Haden should sing on her
next one, she is "forgiven, forgiven, forgiven,
forgiven, forgiven."

After all, what she's done here is capture the spirit
of the Who at the band's most spirited and somehow
found a way to make it sillier without abandoning the
heart that's allowed it to hold up alongside other
artists' more "serious" stabs at pop art from the
'60s. The Who would never make a better album and
chances are, neither will Haden. As Townshend himself
has said, "I love it. It is exquisite." Which is not
to say this album is a substitute for the original. In
fact, there's no reason to hear it at all unless you
know "The Who Sell Out."

Nice cover concept, too, with Haden in for Townshend,
Daltrey, John Entwistle and Moon.

If only I'd been there in the studio to see her doing
all those backward horns on "Armenia City in the Sky"
or Townshend's bent-string leads and low-note drones
on "I Can See for Miles," using only her mouth. It's
just amazing. Audacious, sublime and ridiculous. Like
rock 'n' roll was meant to be.

-- Ed Masley

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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