It's Hard

The Who

Warner Brothers Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Let me get the blasphemous statement out of the way early in the review: The Who should have broken up in 1978 when Keith Moon died.

When Moon died, he took with him a creative spark and youthful energy that Roger Daltrey and company had made a career on for well over a decade. After a period of regrouping, The Who reemerged with former Faces drummer Kenney Jones and released Face Dances, an album that some claimed was not typical Who material.

After the disappointment of Face Dances (which I'll admit I haven't listened to in some time), The Who had a decision to make: try to return to the roots they came from, or continue in the same vein of Face Dances and hope for the best. On It's Hard, they chose the second road -- very bad idea.

The album opens strongly enough with "Athena," a gentle number that puts more emphasis on Daltrey's vocals and what sound like synthesizerss bubbling lightly in the background rather than Pete Townshend's guitar work. It also is one of the few hit singles I can think of that didn't feature a guitar solo.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The only other well-known number on It's Hard is "Eminence Front," featuring Townshend as lead throat. In retrospect, this isn't a bad song, though it takes a little too long to develop into the rocker it eventually becomes. Still, it was a powerful swansong for The Who.

If only anything else on It's Hard stood out like these two songs, it would be a better album. But the sad fact is that The Who had taken a serious turn for the worse on this one. Daltrey's singing and Townshend's playing often sound like their hearts just aren't in the music anymore -- a criticism that many levelled against the Kenney Jones-era Who.

A lot of the songs seem to talk about the losses of Moon and former managers Kit Lambert (who died in 1981 after falling down a flight of stairs) and Pete Meaden (who bought the farm three weeks before Moon). The title track sings about the difficulties we all face in life ("So I'm thinking about my life now / I'm thinking very hard / Deal me another hand Lord, this one's very hard"), while "A Man Is A Man" seems to cry out to their lost bandmate and answers those who claim to be wilder than "Moon The Loon" was ("Well I met a man who really lives / He really does it all / But what matters is the heart he gives / He makes your talk seem small"). Despite the power they tried to capture in the lyrics, the bored-sounding performances take all the punch away.

And by the time The Who does get down to kicking their act into gear on "Cry If You Want," it's too late -- the chance has been wasted, and the writing can easily be seen on the wall for The Who. (The band would call it a day in 1982, and play their farewell concert in 1983 -- that is, until they were enticed out of retirement.)

But as much as some people may blame Jones, I refuse to put the blame on him for the late-model Who. Fact was, anybody who took over the drum throne after Moon's death was in for a tough fight, and to the band members left behind, there simply was no replacement for Keith Moon.

Daltrey has reportedly said about It's Hard that this album should never have seen the light of day. He doesn't know how right he is, 'cause this is a sad picture of a band's decline, and should be avoided by even the diehard Who fans.

Rating: D

User Rating: D



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