Quadrophenia review by The Who

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  • Released: Jan 1, 1973
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.3 (41 votes)
The Who: Quadrophenia

Sound — 10
The Who have always been ahead of their time, and Quadrophenia isn't just hardly an exception, it's probably the best example of that statement. Pete Townshend, always being more of a mature composer as opposed to a Lennon/McCartney-esque concise pop single writer, wrote Quadrophenia as a spiritual successor to their 1969 LP "Tommy" (The only thing they have in common is they're both sprawling Rock Operas). And oh lordy is it ever good, surpassing Tommy musically and maybe conceptually. For this record, Pete Townshend, through his music and lyrics, tells a story of a teenage Mod named Jimmy living in 1960s England. It describes his hardships at home, his insecurities and questioning of his lifestyle and pressures to be just like everyone else (pressures that modern day teens, Mod or not, face everyday). The exact plot is determinable through a combination of listening to the music and reading a short story included in the album booklet, and thus, I won't spoil the rest of the plot for you. However, to give you an idea of how Pete Townshend incorporated the actual music into the story, I want to say something about each of the four themes Townshed created for Quadrophenia, "Love, Reign O'er Me", "Bell Boy", "Helpless Dancer" and "Is It Me?" (It's worth noting that "Is It Me?" is the only song without it's own track, it's 'included' in "Doctor Jimmy". Each of those themes represents not only the split personalities of the protagonist, but of the band members themselves (Townshend, Moon, Daltrey and Entwistle, respectively). Each of the themes pops up at mostly unexpected times over the course of the record, and each of the themes is incorporated into two instrumental songs (The title track and "The Rock"). Even for those who may not understand the actual story first go around, these 4 themes keep the concept album feel in place, making each one of them completely essential to the record. The Who have always had their own unique Rock sound. Each of the band members is just utterly jaw dropping at whatever they do. From Roger Daltreys primal screams to Keith Moons "Controlled Chaos" on the drums, from Pete Townshends stellar rhythm guitar playing (on top of his always masterful song writing)to John Entwistles lead bass style, The Who is generally skilled enough to make even the worst song sound half decent. I can't really name a single bad song on Quadrophenia. So no complaints from me.

Lyrics — 9
As usual, Roger Daltrey dominates this album vocally with his unique yet awe inspiring singing, with Pete Townshend singing lead on certain songs once in a while and a small (Yet surprisingly well performed) cameo from Keith Moon on "Bell Boy". Daltrey is generally considered to be one of the best Rock singers of all time, and if there's any Who album that proves this more than Quadrophenia, please do point it out to me. His voice is in top form the entire album, and "Love Reign O'er Me" is easily the best Rock vocal performance of all time. The lyrics, as I've said before, are about a few days in the life of a young British fella named Jimmy. Again, I don't want to completely spoil the story for you, as there's a lot to be heard. However, one thing I would like to point out for the record buyers whom otherwise don't pay attention to the deeper meaning of lyrics and for people who don't see themselves reading the album booklet; unlike Tommy, the story of this album is nigh impossible to understand right away on the first listen. It could be just me, but I don't really know, just a fair warning. That being said, the lyrics are in every way as brilliant as the music.

Overall Impression — 10
It's really difficult to compare Quadrophenia to other artists of it's time. When it was released, the only project as ambitious was The Who's own "Tommy," most other bands who wrote concept albums or Rock Operas were pretty well obscure (Aside from Pink Floyd, who released "Dark Side of the Moon" the same year as Quadrophenia). Quadrophenia though, when it stands on it's own is fantastic. A start just as fitting as "Overture" and an epic conclusion surpassing "Listening to You" in terms of. Well, everything. Every song on Quadrophenia is there for a reason, and they all add the records sound, but I do have to pick favorites here. Most notably, "Love, Reign O'er Me" is an emotional roller coaster which forces every other artist out there to take notes on how to do a concluding track to a concept album. "Doctor Jimmy" is an epic, synth soaked song teetering on 8 minutes. Along with the actual song, it includes what you could consider the only "full" version of the "Is It Me?" theme, which is my second favorite of the 4. "Bell Boy", with Daltrey singing the part of Jimmy and Moon signing the part of the Bell Boy is a fantastic collaboration between the two and shows that Keith Moon, while a drummer first and foremost, did have potential as a vocalist in the Who when given the chance. The two earlier mentioned instrumentals (Which have each of the four themes occurring in a specific order in a shortened form) are amazing ways to flesh out the concept idea between the themes. "Sea and Sand", "5:15", "The Punk and The Godfather" and "I've Had Enough" are also very notable songs on this record. Overall most of the songs are extremely fitting for Quadrophenia. This is far and away the definitive Who record. You can argue that "Who's Next" is more popular and all that jazz, and you can argue that "Tommy" has a more cohesive story, but Quadrophenia is just bloody magical. It's on this album that Pete Townshend has gone above and beyond Lennon and McCartney and put on this record what most bands don't have a hope of ever achieving, an absolutely perfect balance between emotionally powerful lyrics and masterfully composed music. Quite a few people, myself included, consider Quadrophenia to be the last truly great Who record; quite frankly, they couldn't have possibly gone out on a higher note.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    bluesbreaker59 wrote: Good review for a good album, but it still doesn't compare to Tommy, the greatest album EVER!
    Wow...Sorry, but you obviously know absolutely nothing about great music if you think Tommy is better than Quadrophenia. Tommy has a nonsensical plot line and the music is weak compared to Quadrophenia. Quadrophenia has a great plot about teen angst that actually MEANS something and Pete himself has said the music is the best he's ever written for the Who. Absolutely brilliant album, although I have to admit Tommy was something when played live. Still, it doesn't compare to Quadrophenia. I agree with bassplayer496, this album's a million times better than Tommy.
    Look People it goes like this... 1.Beatles 2.Zeppelin 3.The Who 4.Stones 5.Pink Floyd Any album these 5 crafted is so much better than anyone else has ever made. Quadraphenia is so damn good its on my playlist weekly.....
    I just found a vinyl copy of this album at a thrift shop for $1!!!!! I feel like I just won the lottery!