The Who
Face Dances



by Divaman USER (163 Reviews)
August 17th, 2017 | 13 replies

Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is an underappreciated classic from perhaps the greatest band in rock history.

When Keith Moon died in 1978, Who Fans were crushed. It shouldn't have been a surprise -- Moon was known for living a mad lifestyle, filled with drugs, excessive drinking and demolished hotel rooms. Yet somehow, it was still a shock. For all of his self-destructive behavior, there was something about him that seemed invincible. Consequently, after his death, no one could agree on what should come next. Should The Who even try to replace him, or should they just call it a day as a band?

To their credit, they decided to continue, hiring a friend, former Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones as their new percussionist. Many of their fans were thrilled to see the band find a way to go on. Others, however, resented it. They believed that The Who weren't The Who without Keith Moon, and at times, it seemed like the remaining members of the band agreed with them. It didn't help that Jones played drums in a completely different style than Moon. Where Moon was wild and creative, Jones was simply solid and workmanlike. Many fans and critics alike never forgave The Who for moving on without Moon. So when they released Face Dances in 1981, their first LP of new music subsequent to Moon's passing, it was received in an environment less than conducive to a sober, dispassionate assessment of the music. And the album's reputation wasn't helped by the fact that after Moon's death, The Who's fan base mostly wanted to see the band play their greatest hits during their live shows, a desire the band complied with. Even during their 1981 tour, which was theoretically undertaken to support the new album, The Who only performed five of the then-new LP's nine songs. Unfortunately, the result of all this is that through the years, Face Dances has become an almost criminally underrated album.

Now I'm not going to claim that Face Dances is in the same league with The Who's big three of Tommy, Who's Next and Quadrophenia. But honestly, very few albums are -- they are rightly considered three of the greatest albums in rock history. And I can understand, to a certain extent, why Face Dances is undervalued -- in addition to the emotion involved in being the first Who album released without Keith Moon, and the fact that much of the its material wasn't promoted by the band's live shows, there's also a subtlety to this LP. It's not a great album for in your face rock anthems. The only really driving songs are "You Better You Bet", the album's most enduring track, "The Quiet One", which is an Entwistle number, and "Daily Records", which for some reason has never been performed live. Add to all of this the fact that by 1981, the music scene itself had changed, and arena rock bands such as The Who were considered to be past their shelf lives, and you can see why this album didn't catch on the way it should have.

Nevertheless, if you judge the album solely by the music and the quality of its songs, there's a lot to like here. Daltrey is in superb voice throughhout the album, as is Townshend. And "You Better You Bet" is justly considered one of The Who's better songs. It's the song from this album that received the lion's share of the airplay, and it has almost always been performed in their live shows since the LP's release. But above and beyond that, there are plenty of other reasons to love this album.

"Don't Let Go the Coat" is a quiet song, but it's one of the best from Townshend's post-Quadrophenia era. Written as a tribute to his spiritual guide Meher Baba, who urged his followers to stay on the path by hanging fast to the edge of his robe in the same way that a small child clings to his mother's jacket so as not to get lost in a crowd, the song is both simple and beautiful.

Another excellent song is "The Quiet One", an autobiograpical gem written and sung by John Entwistle. A fast-paced and energetic number, this one was written to replace his song "My Wife" for the band's live show. The lyrics are filled with examples of the bass player's famous dry sense of humor: "Still waters run deep so be careful I don't drown you/You've got nothing to hear I've got nothing to say". One of the many strengths of The Who is to have a second songwriter of the quality of Entwistle whose self deprecating wit and playfulness contrasts nicely with the serious-mindedness of Townshend, and this song is one of his best.

There are several other treats on Face Dances, including "Did You Steal My Money", which finds Townshend experimenting with a multitude of different ways to ask the same question; the album-ending "Another Tricky Day" ("This is no social crisis/This is you having fun/Getting burned by the sun"); and especially "Daily Records" which might just be the best Who song you've never heard of.

One the strength of all of this, I consider Face Dances to be the strongest Who album post-Quadrophenia. I realize that this is a kind of heresy, rating it higher than several albums that featured Keith Moon, including The Who By Numbers and particularly Who Are You, Moon's last album. But it is what it is. I've always found Who By Numbers to be a little lackluster, and as for Who Are You, I think the emotions surrounding Moon's demise caused it be more highly regarded than it deserved to be. Also, if you give it a really good listen, you can hear that by this time, Moon wasn't Moon anymore anyway -- too many years of hard living took their toll on his playing. I'll take the delicate pleasures of Face Dances any day. It's an underappreciated and understated jewel from perhaps the greatest band in rock history.

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August 17th 2017



August 17th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

I usually try to review albums that don't already have a review on this site, but the previous write-up for this one is short and already over 11 years old. And I really feel strongly that this one has always been undervalued.

Digging: Fire On Fire - The Orchard

August 17th 2017


Nice to see this reviewed by you Diva. You're the man on the site of the forgotten albums. This is not the case but you're right. The other was too short.

I'm not familiar with this album, perhaps due to what you said, this is an album without Moon. Still, I always loved this band, a common point with almost all of us.

Another great job, man. Pos.

August 17th 2017


nice one, Diva..

August 17th 2017


Album Rating: 2.5

Nice review man. My father has a vinyl copy. I don't like it very much. Maybe due to the absence of Moon. Maybe I take another look, due to your review. Have a pos.

August 17th 2017


The magic faded away

August 17th 2017


It's funny to think of it now, but you're right, fans really did expect them to pack it up after Moon died--and were really unhappy when they didn't. Meanwhile, they're still touring now and sounding great almost 40 years later (and without Entwistle too) . . . Listening to this now and it's not as bad as I remember. Lot's of big 70s bands didn't do this well transitioning into the 80s.

August 17th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

You're right Twig. Don't forget, the song "Who Are You" from the previous album was written at a time when bands like The Who were already being called "dinosaurs" in the face of the punk movement -- that's the whole background story of the song where Townshend met two of The Sex Pistols and was kind of disappointed to find they revered him. So after Moon's death, it was that much more so -- there were people who were very angry at Townshend for continuing the band. But I love the songs on this album, even some of the goofier ones like "Cache, Cache" ("There ain't no bears in there!") and "How Can You Do It Alone". It's probably less impressive instrumentally than a lot of their earlier stuff, though, so if that's what you loved best about The Who, I can see where you might be disappointed with this effort.

August 17th 2017


The band's sound has softened considerably with this album, but it's enjoyable and inoffensive. I remember not having listened to it for almost a year, thank you for giving me the desire and interest to hear it again. I think Pete was saving the best of his compositions for his solo albums, yet there are some strong songs on this disc: You Better You Bet, Don't Let Go the Coat, Cache Cache (what a great John's bass performance, as always), How Can You Do It Alone, Daily Records and Another Tricky Day.
Also, I believe at that time the band still owed music to its label, so if they decided to quit after Keith's death I think they would have financial problems.
I don't know if you have this album's reissue, it has five bonus tracks. Three outtakes: I Like Nightmares, It's in You and Somebody Saved Me, the first and third ones sung by Pete. And two live recordings of How Can You Do It Alone and The Quiet One. I didn't know the former was a 1979 performance, or at least that's what I read. It has a little more power than the original version.
Good review, pos.

August 17th 2017


Will give it a spin. I probably only know you better you better you bet. I did read your first para, will read the rest later. Insta-pos.

August 17th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks everyone.

I don't have the reissue, RippingCorpse, but I listened to it on Spotify.

You might be right about the financial considerations, but while I'm sure that was a factor, I think the decision to continue was more of an emotional one.

August 17th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review, Divaman. Definitely an underappreciated album in the Who's discography, and the last great one, to boot. I found It's Hard to be rather lacking and Endless Wire was only somewhat interesting.

August 17th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Batareziz. I think "It's Hard" is a little underrated, but not as much as this one. And I agree completely about "Endless Wire". I'm glad we have it, but outside of "Tea & Theatre", I think it's only so-so.

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