Friday, March 13, 2009

Who 16: It’s Hard

To hear of another Who album so soon after the last one seemed a blessing at first. But the announcement of a big American tour was tempered by word that it would be their last, putting even more pressure on the album’s success.
As could be predicted by the adolescent sniggers inspired by the title, It’s Hard just isn’t that good. Outside of a few flourishes here and there, it doesn’t sound very much like a Who album, which is made all the worse by various melodic touches that hearken back to other songs, and not in a good way.
“Athena” was probably the wise choice for the single, and is almost funny. John’s “It’s Your Turn” takes the synth line first heard in “Had Enough” (and again, stolen that year by Asia) and puts it to a growly Roger vocal about aging rock stars. “Cooks County” is boring and redundant, one of Pete’s worst efforts. The title track starts out promisingly, but ultimately its catchiness quickly turns empty. “Dangerous” is a step in the right direction, but is more of an Entwistle song than a Who song. A lot of people still like “Eminence Front” (or “Living In The Bronx”, as one radio listener called it) but it’s merely a list disguised as a song over a pedestrian riff.
“I’ve Known No War” is a little too obvious, leaning on the pulse of “Join Together”. “One Life’s Enough” raises eyebrows with its somewhat racy lyrics, but now seems so out of place. “One At A Time” is a better John song, with good playing but more in the comical “My Wife” mode. “Why Did I Fall For That” uses the swagger too much, and blows too many canisters on the opening. “A Man Is A Man” needs a whole new set of lyrics to matter (and even when taken in the context of “Fish Shop” from Pete’s Horse’s Neck collection of short stories, it’s still embarrassing). “Cry If You Want” is descended from both “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Communication” from Chinese Eyes, and might have been good if it didn’t drag so much.
Pointedly, the band started working on the album without Pete, who was busy with both his recovery and the completion of his solo album. By the time he was involved he had nothing left to give. There were plans to do another album once the tour ended, but ultimately, because of this mess we can be glad the group stopped when it did. And because of this one wouldn’t expect any subsequent Who album, whenever it would arrive, to be any good. (It’s Hard was duly reissued in the ‘90s, with some tracks slightly extended past their original fades, and live tracks for the bonuses.)

The Who It’s Hard (1982)—2
1996 remaster: same as 1982, plus 4 extra tracks

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