Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"It's Hard" by The Who (1982)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately:
Don't bother.  Seriously, don't bother.

"It's Hard" is a shining example of several "Don'ts" when it comes to music.

1. Don't try to sound hip. 
The moment you find yourself trying to, or even considering the the concept of hip, you aren't.  Even if you happen to be a seminal rock band that helped shape the landscape you're trying to play in, you're still old after a certain point.  And old is never hip.  The cover artwork for 1982's "It's Hard" features a boy playing an arcade game and The Who standing around deliberately trying to look cool.  It pretty much sums up where they went wrong - that and the frequent appearance of up to three different synthesizers (and sometimes an electric organ) on an individual track.

2. Don't let someone who is not the primary songwriter pen a third of the songs on your LP.
When it came to songwriting, John Entwistle was a phenomenal bass player.  He thanks Roger and Pete in the liner notes for help with subject matter and lyrics.  That's sad because they still didn't turn out well.  Of course, Townsend's lyrics weren't particularly stellar this go around either - "Any soul can sleep, few can die.  Any wimp can weep, few can cry."

3. Don't assume you can coast on bombast and musicianship.
Those elements don't mean anything if you don't have interesting lyrics, engaging melodies or anything resembling a hook.  It just means you wrote a song; you didn't necessarily write a good or interesting one.  "It's Hard" is full of songs.  And it probably shouldn't be.  Which leads us to...

4. Don't automatically think you have to make a full length release.
I talked about this some in the premise for Revisiting Vinyl - the notion of have a good tune or two and then loading them onto an LP with a bunch of crap for whatever reason at whoever's request.  The LP is a great format and it can be used to great effect, but it's not the only format and it's not always the best choice.  Sometimes you just don't have that much to say, which is why there are EPs and singles.  I really think "single" would have been the best way to go here.  Eminence Front is fantastic.  It's big and cinematic and it feels like it swallowed every good hook they had at the time.  It's like a Baba O'Riley for a new generation.  You could throw in the title track as the b-side and every interesting moment of "It's Hard" would be covered.  Unfortunately, that's not what happened, and as a listener you find yourself agreeing with one of Pete's "It's Hard" lyrics: "Why'd I fall for that crap?"

So, is it an album?  No.  There is no apparent thought process in many of the songs individually, much less across the entire LP.

Up next, we go back to Simon & Garfunkel with "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

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