1001 Albums: The Who Sell Out

#90

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Artist: The Who

Album: The Who Sell Out

Year: 1967

Length: 38:46

Genre: Psychedelic Pop / Power Pop

“If you think that I don’t know about the little tricks you’ve played
And never see you when deliberately you put things in my way”

 

Those cheeky bastards are at it again.

After a long, long, long hiatus (probably the longest one I’ve ever had) I have returned and boy have I returned with a doozy of an album. I have to admit so far I do think this is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far, and if not my favourite, it definitely has a spot in the top 5 thus far. I always liked The Who and remember listening to this album over a year ago. But back then I was kind of just listening without listening, going through the discography and the motions and ending each one with a “yeah I liked that”. Thankfully this one appeared on this list because it allowed me to rediscover it and I have to say it has firmly placed itself as my current favourite Who album.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people feel this way. It’s easy to put one of their later albums as a favourite to due to the maturity of their songwriting and even their first due to it’s raw rock power, but this one just resonates on so many levels. It’s important to note that this is The Who’s first concept album and arguably their greatest one, or at least their most successful as a concept. Unlike their later album Tommy, which depended on a narrative flow and story to hold it altogether, this one was able to have each of their songs stand on their own as mastered works but together bring out a much clearer picture.

For those who don’t know The Who have managed to successfully create a concept for an album that is masterfully executed in it’s pure simplicity. With the rise of Pirate Radios and rock music, they decided to create an entire album that gave the experience of listening to one of these channels. In between all their songs they have included radio adverts and jingles that never distract from the album but rather add a lot to it. It doesn’t end there, as if these guys weren’t cheeky enough, their songs satirize consumerism as a whole. It does this so masterfully by both glorifying the consumer culture while at the same time poking fun of it. It’s subtle but there’s never a moment that these boys don’t have their tongues firmly placed in their cheeks.

Outside of the concept, the songs on this album are just purely fantastic. I could listen to a vast majority of them on repeat and still be just as engaged by it as my first listening. Including their hit I Can See For Miles, other great ones include Odorono, Tattoo, I can’t Reach You as some that stood out for me. Even a humourous song like Silas Stingy which sticks out a little manages to still feel just as great (although the humour is cranked up in this one). It’s only by the end of the album that I sort of get out of it with Sunrise and Rael 1 and 2 just not really doing it for me, but that’s personal preference as they hold up well with the rest of the album. They managed to take on psychedelic sensibilities and turn it into a pop sound. It’s very much a psychedelic album disguised as pop rock (or is it the other way around?) and this is really what gives it it’s personality. Mixed with fantastic production and great harmonizing vocals and you have a classic.

One could easily break this album down and if we did we would be here for a very long time, which isn’t my intent, I’m mostly just here for the experience. But what an experience it was. The Who Sell Out has easily placed itself very high on my list of favourite albums. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll attempt a song by song analysis of this album, but until then I’ll just enjoy it for what it is: One of the greatest concept albums of all time.

Song of Choice: I Can See For Miles

-Bosco

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