Monday, April 26, 2010

Pete Townshend 10: Psychoderelict

Having already written a novel, a book of short stories, a musical and a Broadway version of Tommy, Pete continued his quest to be king of all media with Psychoderelict, which emerged as a radio play of sorts. The script—complete with soap opera-level acting and one voice who sounded just enough like Roger Daltrey speaking—buried the music, while reviving ideas stemming from Lifehouse. (The advent of the Internet and virtual reality showed that Pete’s ideas were not only ahead of their time, but right on target and ready for mass consumption—almost.) There are some great musical moments scattered throughout the album, but the real fun came via a variety of instrumental demos with a 1971 copyright, serving to illustrate the concept album within the concept, which only whet our appetites for more of the same vintage.
“English Boy” was the lead track and only real hit, sidelined by the jazzy midsection, but those final guitar slashes moving into the piano truly show how much thought he’d put into it. It’s followed up by “Meher Baba M3”, one of three similarly-titled tracks from 1970 or so, albeit with modern-sounding drums added. “Let’s Get Pretentious” is somewhat self-defeating, but even casual listeners will recognize the core of “Who Are You” in “Meher Baba M4 (Signal Box)”. “Early Morning Dreams” is something of an advertisement for the grid discussed in the story, redeemed by wonderful Beach Boys-inspired bridges. “I Want That Thing” is a better rocker around the usual four chords, while “Outlive The Dinosaur” is right in line with the solo sound we’d come to expect from him, and a better statement of purpose than “Let’s Get Pretentious”. A link called “Flame (Demo)” doesn’t bode well for the complete version appearing later.
“Now And Then”, “I Am Afraid” and “Don’t Try To Make Me Real” are an excellent trio of songs sadly interrupted by the constant dialogue. Things go downhill on “Predictable” (which is, unfortunately) and “Flame”, included as the “smash hit” performed by one of the characters and not featuring Pete at all. (This time the actors’ sniping is welcome.) “Meher Baba M5 (Vivaldi)” serves as a pleasant distraction, and “Fake It” is about half of another great song; the other half just doesn’t work. A reprise of “Now And Then” is used to further the plot, and a teaser of the “Baba O’Riley” demo coincides with the climax of Lifehouse, devilishly interrupted by a seven-minute reprise of “English Boy” as the credits roll.
Perhaps Psychoderelict aimed too high, Pete’s ideas still not quite able to translate to the album format. A “music only” version, which had already been sent to radio, helped a bit by slicing out all the dialogue and voiceovers—with a much-easier-to-read booklet—but the damage was done. While it gives you a chance to hear how the album might have appeared before he came onto the concept, once you’ve heard the so-called story, it’s hard to separate it from the songs. At least he started performing live again.

Pete Townshend Psychoderelict (1993)—2
2006 remaster: same as 1993, plus 1 extra track
Pete Townshend Psychoderelict (Music Only) (1993)—

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