In 1978, Pete Townshend’s lyrics on “Music Must Change” had him questioning the relevance of The Who’s music in an age when punk was ascending — and The Who’s brand of rock was seemingly on the ropes:  But is this song so different?/Am I doing it all again?/It may have been done before/But then music’s an open door.  Flash forward to 2019, and Townshend has come to terms with what’s relevant and what’s not on their new single “All This Music Must Fade.” After living through and helping to shape around five decades of rock music, it’s refreshing to hear what Townshend thinks about being original in an era where new musical styles tend to build on what came before — and that opinion comes right at the end of the song.  As the music ends cold, Townshend continues singing “And what’s mine is yours…who gives a fu*k.” In other words, there’s very little that’s truly original when it comes to music, so there’s no use in trying to establish a music identity or style by proclaiming: “Oh, what I do is totally new. No one has ever done anything like this before. I’m beyond categorization.” Artists have influences, they have muses, they have sources they draw upon to craft a song, a painting, a movie, a novel — and those sparks of creativity are rarely (if ever) de novo. So let’s dismiss all claims of originality and just create some fu*king art that expresses what you are feeling or wanting to say. Others may have said it before you, but so what? 

Well, given all that, what has The Who wrought?  “All This Music Must Fade” has Townshend’s signature guitar sound, Daltrey’s rumble of a voice, a tempo that’s certainly driving forward, and a running time that doesn’t overstay its welcome (3 minutes and 20 seconds). The song is also more bare-bones than anything the group has recorded in a long time — and that’s a good thing. Townshend doesn’t bother with explorations of child abuse, spirituality, sexual attraction, fading fame, Mods, midlife crises, or any other themes that have become hallmarks of The Who and Townshend’s solo work. Instead, Pete and his brother Simon go for something simple:  the life of a musical genre is finite, so just enjoy the “simple verse” of it all. As Daltrey sings, It’s not new/Not Diverse/It won’t light up your parade, it’s just a song by some old guys who are having a last hurrah, the last waltz, and a final windmill motion on the guitar. Yeah, their music will fade over time, but in The Who’s hands, they will make sure their music will not go gently into the night.  

Full album release on December 6, 2019

Track list:

  1. All This Music Must Fade
  2. Ball and Chain
  3. I Don’t Wanna Get Wise
  4. Detour
  5. Beads On One String
  6. Hero Ground Zero
  7. Street Song
  8. I’ll Be Back
  9. Break The News
  10. Rockin’ In Rage
  11. She Rocked My World