Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Peter Townshend

  • Who Came First [Track, 1972] A-
  • Empty Glass [Atco, 1980] B-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Who Came First [Track, 1972]
Townshend sounds as relaxed in this rather folkish Meher Baba tribute cum "gynormouse ego trip" as Paul McCartney in his do-it-yourself studio, and a lot less self-absorbed--other musical gurumongers sound "Content" (title of worst song here), but Pete seems happy, too. So much so that some of this music is a little lightweight--expressing the kind of undiscriminating joy in the everyday one might expect from somebody who considers "You always were, you always are, and you always will be" both a profound sentiment and a snappy way to finish off a concept album. But I'm encouraged that Ronnie Lane (singer-songwriter on "Evolution") offers a drink (alcohol, get it?) to the Master and his Truth. And in the end the homely sweetness and frailty of his music prevails. A-

Empty Glass [Atco, 1980]
Townshend has said the only reason this isn't a Who record is that it wasn't time for a Who record, which must be his oblique way of apologizing for not being able to sing like Roger Daltrey. On his earlier solo excursions, the casually reflective mood suited his light timbre. Here he's coming to terms with love, frustration, punk, and other subjects that overtax his capacity for urgency and anger (and understanding). Who fans find the gap between aspiration and achievement touching, even thematic. Nonbelievers find it whiny. And they hate those ostinatos. B-

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