Admirable but flawed return from one of rock’s most iconic bands.
The Who brand—once symbolic of the enduring power of rock—has aged poorly. There have been too many songs sold to television, too much scandal, too many ?nal tours, too much death, and too little new material from Pete Townshend. Here to rectify the latter is the band’s first studio album since 1982’s It’s Hard. We can be thankful for the record’s mature outlook, and that Townshend and Roger Daltrey (the only surviving members) sound comfortable in their skins. But the songs are mostly weird (two rants were inspired by a viewing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ; a clunky neo-Tom Waits vocal on “In the Ether”), overly familiar (the synth pattern from “Baba O’Riley” pops up twice in a “new” track) or simply bland (roughly half the remaining songs). A couple sparks ?are, mostly during the mini-opera “Wire & Glass,” including the energetic power pop of “We Got a Hit” and the loping, bittersweet title track. But the record is ultimately sad in a way that has nothing to do with art—the sound of creativity spent.