The Who Sell Out

Although many fans of the Who say their first great album was A Quick One, I disagree; I think their first outstanding album was this one, suffused with humour, commercial snark and a solid collection of great tracks. Pete Townshend has always had trouble with concept albums with a plot as shown by Quadrophenia and Tommy, which musically trapped him within their inflexible libretti and strict narratives which were only coherent in, uh, concept. Not so here where delightful commercials for real products (standout: "Odorono") share airplay with real Radio London jingles and some of Townshend's best output lyrically until Who's next (standouts: "Our Love Was," "Tattoo"). If the concept was just to capture 1960s AM radio on vinyl, then the concept obviously worked, and the relatively light topical constraint allowed the band freedom to explore the musical complexity they had only hinted at in earlier efforts. Plus, something novel: the bonus tracks on the CD reissues don't suck! Without a bad track to be found anywhere, this gem nevertheless misses the five-star mark for two apparently insubstantial but nevertheless significant faults: the tracking, which breaks up songs and jingles mid-verse and really stinks without gapless playback, and the album's cheerful banality which is obviously its salvation but simultaneously its major stylistic blemish. (Content: no concerns.)