Album reviews: The Who

Plus: The Comet is Coming, Beans on Toast and Christian Alexander

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THE WHO

Who
(Polydor)
4/5

As far as opening statements go, “I know you’re going to hate this song” is certainly one way to make you sit up and pay attention to The Who’s first new album in 13 years.

“It’s not new, not diverse. It won’t light up your parade,” continues Roger Daltrey on a fiercely defiant All This Music Will Fade, pre-empting the critical kicking that typically greets any fresh work from a veteran band long past their peak.

Forty-five years after The Who made their first recordings, they remain a formidable and hugely popular live act, but can surviving members Daltrey and songwriter-guitarist Pete Townsend still cut it in the studio? It’s a question that they ask themselves several times here, most notably on the choppy multi-part I Don’t Want To Get Wise, on which a gruff-voiced Daltrey declares: “We tried to stay young, but the high notes were sung.”

Rocking In Rage explores similar ground and finds the band “too old to fight” as razor-sharp guitar chords and tumbling drums fire off under them. The bruising blues of Detour looks back by briefly reviving the shimmering synthesizer motif from Baba O’Riley.

The fact that these songs sound like the work of men several decades their junior is indicative of an impassioned and characteristically obstinate record that delights in confounding expectations.

THE COMET IS COMING

The Afterlife
(Impulse)
3/5

The Afterlife is billed as a companion piece to The Comet Is Coming’s acclaimed second album, Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery, released earlier this year and currently featuring in many critics’ best-of 2019 lists. Like that record, this condensed six-track work exists within a psychedelic fog of throbbing electronic pulses, crisp drumbeats and Shabaka Hutchings’ screeching saxophone. The latter alternates between electrifying howl and sombre sigh, while Joshua Idehen’s baritone narrates the cosmic jazz of All That Matters Is The Moments. Echoes of techno can be heard in The Seven Planetary Heavens’ soothing spiritual glow.

BEANS ON TOAST

The Inevitable Train Wreck
(Bot Music)
3/5

For the past 10 years English folk singer Jay McAllister, aka Beans On Toast, has released a new album on 1 December, the date of his birthday. His latest is a collaborative effort with Lewis and Kitty Durham from family band Kitty, Daisy and Lewis and trades rootsy acoustic folk for 1950s-style rock and roll. The change in musical direction makes for a fun listen, even when McAllister sings about the collapse of civilisation, as he does on World Gone Crazy or the skiffle-flavoured Saying Thank You To Robots. A real highlight is Logic Bomb, a smile-inducing ditty about the perils of modern technology set to buoyant brass.

CHRISTIAN ALEXANDER

Summer ‘19
(Dirty Polo)
4/5

Christian Alexander’s self-produced debut Summer ’17 saw the Garstang-based singer favourably compared to Rex Orange County and Frank Ocean. Follow-up Summer ’19, also recorded in his home studio, is even better. “I’m maturing. I hope you’ve noticed,” his digital-treated voice declares over an earworm keyboard melody on Ripped Jeans, a lo-fi R&B ballad that sets the dreamy tone. A sombre Peter Parker is underpinned by a crunchy hip-hop beat on which Alexander draws an analogy between his own depression and “venom stuck to Peter Parker”. The introverted Bon Iver-esque Still Love U brings the record to a moving close.

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