When the album becomes Immersion
Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011
The WhoQuadrophenia: Director's Cut (Polydor/Universal)
Crashing power chords, titanic bass runs, hair-raising bellows, drum-kit thunder – the roar of "The Real Me" leaves no doubt that Quadrophenia is quintessential Who. But it's more than just a reiteration of the UK quartet's strengths. Cut for cut, Quadrophenia is the most consistent LP in the Who's oeuvre, its intricate construction and clear delivery leaving zero room for filler. Admittedly, by 1973 the Who had lost some of its unhinged abandon, although Keith Moon's drumming still verges on anarchy. Yet auteur Pete Townshend and the band make up for it with sheer craft: the epic sweep of "Doctor Jimmy" and "I've Had Enough," the rollicking drive of "Drowned" and "The Punk and the Godfather," the thoughtful bombast of "Cut My Hair" and "Is It In My Head?." Motifs reappear between tracks and verses, linking themes together like bridges over a river. The attention to detail – in the melodies, production, and even the story – begs for close reading, making Quadrophenia the Who's best headphones album. Even divorced of their context, "5:15" and "The Real Me" remain classic Who singles, and "Love, Reign O'er Me" retains its magnificence no matter how many spins it's gotten in decades of classic-rock radio. The two discs of demos show Townshend on a real roll; the shimmering beauty of "Joker James," "Get Inside," and "You Came Back" would've unbalanced the final album but work perfectly as songs in their own right. Even the petulant "Get Out and Stay Out" boasts a cheeky charm. With the CD mix the same as the 1996 remaster, plus a poster, 7-inch single, replicas of Townshend's handwritten notes and drawings, a DVD of 5.1 mixes, and a hardback book packed with photos and creative musings, this Director's Cut earns its indulgence.