Petra Haden's Who Sell Out review

Sigel, James (N-CSC) james.sigel at
Fri Feb 25 15:50:33 CST 2005

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
Nice review, but I'm not too happy with the line:  "The Who would never
make a better album..."
Jim in Colorado

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