This is my somewhat perfunctory – love that word – review of The Who’s second album. But at least it includes a clip from Rushmore. (originally posted on Amazon.com, December 7, 2006.)
The Who’s second album falls a bit short of their fine debut, and is redeemed by a handful of slightly above average tracks rather than by great ones.
Some have argued too many songwriters spoiled the record, as all members of the group made contributions. Not surprisingly, Townshend dominates the record. “Run Run Run” and “So Sad About Us” are probably the best of his batch, and the enjoyable but somewhat slight “Happy Jack” was the single and most famous track. (Strangely, it is included only among the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue.)
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” was his first compostion of epic proportions, and a sign of things to come in the forms of Tommy and Quadraphenia. Daltrey, Townshend, and Entwistle take turns at the mike with equally good results. This is a great song, but it plays much better on the Live at Leeds CD. It is fleshed out more completely, delivered with deserving passion, and is preceded by some humorous on-stage banter. (Wes Anderson was wise to use a live version – which I think is from The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus – for the Rushmore soundtrack.)
Entwistle began to develop his trademark of writing songs with dark humor and unsettling self-deprecation. On this album, he offers the story of the ill-fated “Boris the Spider” and “The Whiskey Man,” at tale of alcohol-induced paranoid schizophrenia: “Seemingly I must be mad, insanity is fun.”
Moon throws in the instrumental “Cobwebs and Strange,” a showcase for his feral drumming style, and the surpringly affecting “I Need You.” Finally, Daltrey – a very infrequent songwriter – has only one song on the record, the middling “See My Way.” (Oh yeah, there is also a superfluous cover of “Heat Wave.”)
The CD re-issue adds several bonus tracks of fitful quality. “Disguises,” “In the City,” “Man With the Money,” and the characteristically amusing “Doctor, Doctor” by Entwistle – who may well be the star of the record – help make the disc worth listening to in it’s entirety.
But the real problem with A Quick One is that it simply never catches fire. At this point, The Who had shown that they were able to crank out decent singles, and that they had the ability and the inspiration to achieve greater things. However, they had yet to deliver a solid album of all original material. That would change in a big way the following year (1967) with The Who Sell Out. But in the wake of A Quick One, the band still had some work to do before its legendary status would be secured.