Face Dances review

(Yes, I’m going to review one of The Who’s least-popular albums, and I still stand by the 4-star rating I gave it the first time I reviewed it back in 2001. Oh, and guess what, I LOVE It’s Hard, their other least-popular studio album.)

This was my ninth Who album, bought in February 2001 when I was just starting to get over what I strongly suspect in hindsight was the flu. It was a wonder I summoned up the strength to go into town to Newbury Comics that weekend. I was pretty disappointed when I saw that was the only Who album in their CD section I didn’t have yet, since I’d been hoping to find The Who by Numbers or Who Are You next. (I found both the next month, on 15 March.)

After I’d heard so many terrible things about this album, I expected the worst. I really feel this was what gave me my generally positive opinion of the album. Since I’d already heard the worst, I was pleasantly surprised FD didn’t turn out to suck. Obviously, they could never top Who’s Next or Quadrophenia, but taken in context of the time period and the band’s history, it’s not so shabby. It’s ridiculous to expect them to have constantly remade WN or Quad for the entire rest of their career.

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This album was released in 1981, after Keith’s tragic death. Their new drummer, Kenney Jones of The Small Faces, had a much different style. No one could ever hold a candle to Keith, but Kenney did an admirable job of filling in. You have to give him credit for having the gigantic iron balls required to even deign to try to fill Keith’s shoes. And really, his more subdued style fit the direction they were going in, and the overall musical style of the early Eighties.

Some people refuse to listen to anything The Who made post-Keith, and that’s really not an attitude I can get behind. It’s one thing to have a personal preference for a particular era or lineup, as I’m sure everyone does. But it’s entirely another to outright refuse to listen to a particular lineup or era. At least give it a few listens so you can decide you don’t care for it, instead of dismissing it out of hand. They made some truly classic early Eighties songs.

A lot of people hypocritically bitch about how Pete “was hogging all the best songs for himself,” and that everyone would’ve loved Face Dances had it been his solo album, with Empty Glass The Who’s album. No, it doesn’t work that way. He meant those songs for the band, and they came out of a particular time in his life. I’m sure plenty of people would still whine if the albums had been switched, saying, e.g., Roger could’ve sung the FD songs so much better or that Pete gave away too much of his best material.

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Everyone knows the opening track, “You Better You Bet,” the obvious hit. Yes, it’s kind of lightweight and silly, but I like it. It’s cute and fun, and not every song is meant to be as deep and powerful as “Love, Reign O’er Me” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

I really disliked “Don’t Let Go the Coat” till I heard Pete’s demo on Another Scoop. I gradually started to see the beautiful spiritual message and personal cry from the heart. Now I see the band’s version as a very underrated song.

“Cache, Cache” is one of the worst songs Pete ever wrote. I’m with the majority on this one. Even the demo version on Scoop repels me.

“The Quiet One” is one of John’s signature songs, really summing up his personality and what he was all about. It’s one of the album’s standouts.

“Did You Steal My Money?” is pretty stupid, but not (for me) at the horrific level of “Cache, Cache.” If a song must be a throwaway, at least it can be a listenable throwaway. I also love Pete’s middle-eight, “How can we forgive a grievance/Now that we all live with demons?”

“How Can You Do It Alone?” is kind of like a grown-up version of “Pictures of Lily.” (Look up the story behind the song if you don’t know!) It’s not one of the album’s standouts by any means, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as a lot of other people do.

“Daily Records” is one of their early Eighties classics, such an anthem for themselves in this era of changing musical sensibilities and styles, getting older, and still soldiering on in the musical industry.

“You” is rare for being a John song sung by Roger. A lot of people laud it as one of the standouts, but it’s never been a particular favorite for me.

“Another Tricky Day” is a great closer, and another of their early Eighties classics.

The CD remastering has five bonus tracks:

“I Like Nightmares” is just embarrassing trash.

“It’s in You” is a great song, full of the swagger Roger does so well.

“Somebody Saved Me” is the band’s version of Pete’s 1982 solo song from All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. It’s a really beautiful, haunting song, no matter which version.

The live version of “How Can You Do It Alone?” comes from a 1979 performance, and the live version of “The Quiet One” is from a 1982 performance.

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2 thoughts on “Face Dances review

  1. Now you’ve got me curious to want to find my copy to listen to again. I guess this is an album I never listened to enough for it to really register with me so I don’t remember much of what you’re referring to. I can’t recall ever disliking an album by The Who too much, but then again if I can’t remember it then it must reflect on any lack of impression it left on me.

    I guess every great group or artist comes up with a dud now and then.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    Like

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