Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Who: Quadrophenia [MCA, 1973]
Unlike Tommy, this one really is a kind of opera--first you get to know the music, then you sit down with the libretto and concentrate for eighty minutes. Even with the synopsis (as brilliant a piece of writing as Townshend's ever done) and lyrics, its account of a young Mod's "double schizophrenia" can be pretty confusing, partly because confusion is his subject. The music is cluttered with horns and unnecessarily shrill, so that--despite its considerable melodic (and motivic, as they say) pizzazz--you don't play it for fun. But if Townshend's great virtue is compassion, this is his triumph--Everykid as heroic fuckup, smart enough to have a good idea of what's being done to him and so sensitive he gets pushed right out to the edge anyway. A-