I'm just lying here on the couch, reading my RSS feeds and listening to The Who's 1971 "Who's Next" album for the first time in a long time. Holy crap, I'd forgotten what a great piece of work that is.
As Dave Wilson wrote in Salon a few years ago, somehow even infinite replays on classic rock radio have failed to dilute these tracks. Pete Townshend magically turns out not only to have created some of the greatest, most muscular guitar sounds in the history of rock 'n' roll, but also to be a genius with the primitive analog synthesizers of the era, which no one would have expected. Roger Daltrey makes his case to be among the best rock singers—powerful without being shrieky, cheesy, or slick. John Entwistle uses his bass both to anchor the rhythm and to fill in the melodies behind Townshend's power chords in marvelously creative ways.
And Keith Moon, well, what can you say? I've written about him before, how he's always been impossible to emulate because his drumming reflected the same unhinged personality that led to his early death. He was, it seems, incapable of playing quietly or subtly. So on "Who's Next," even the softest ballads seem on the verge of a complete train wreck, which is just the sort of tension rock music needs.
And then, of course, there is The Scream, 7 minutes and 45 seconds into "Won't Get Fooled Again." It should have become self parody after appearing in car commercials and following David Caruso's witticisms at the beginning of every episode of CSI: Miami. Yet still, when I listen to it in context, after the long, burbling synth interlude and Moon's edge-of-chaos drum intro, Daltrey's "Yeeeeaaaaaaah!" still gives me goosebumps every time (he sang it so loud that the microphone actually crackles with distortion), and the guitar that follows it is my own Platonic ideal of what overdriven chords should sound like.
Anyway, if you like The Who, or any band that owes them a debt, from AC/DC to Green Day to every emo-pop-punk group of today, go listen to "Who's Next" again and give it its due.