It took The Who almost 20 years to find a truly capable replacement for drummer Keith Moon, who tragically passed away in 1978. Moon was himself a microcosm of the band that he was such a huge part of. The Who became famous thanks to their live shows where it seemed anything could, and did, happen. The chaos that ensued onstage continued off of it. Or need I remind you that this band was banned from Holiday Inns for life?
The Who decided to continue on after Moon's death, hiring Kenney Jones to replace him. The fact is is that Jones isn't all that great of a drummer, but to be fair to him, he was replacing the unreplacable. By the time this first album without Moon was released, the only capable replacement was also dead (John Bonham, who was obviously unavailable since he was already in the other great English rock band of the time, Led Zeppelin). Not until Zak Starkey came along did The Who really sound the same again.
Face Dances is an inconsistent record that finds the Who desparately trying to remain relevant in a changing musical world. The surprising amount of pure throwaway tracks is almost shocking, even though the last album with Moon, Who Are You, had its own fair share of those as well.
The hardest rocker is You, written by bassist John Entwistle. The song has a swagger that had been noticable absent from the Who's sound for much of the latter half of the 70s, beginning with the By Numbers album. Entwistle also wrote the other standout rocker on the disc, The Quiet One, which is a rollicking and enthralling number that makes you wonder why Entwistle didn't get to contribute more to the songwriting for the disc. If he had, this may have been the Who's greatest accomplishment since Quadrophenia.
The biggest hit from the album is You Better You Bet, a somewhat cheesy if catchy song that employs the heavy use of synthesizer to drive it along. The song might be more passable if guitar was the main driving force in the melody, but the synth just gives it this cheesy Styx futuristic sound in places, and honestly, I don't think it sounds all that good.
Speaking of cheesy, guitarist/chief songwriter Pete Townsend perhaps never wrote a cheesier song than Did You Steal My Money. Not only are there hints of one of the Who's greatest singles (Join Together) in the background at times, but the melody is goofy and the lyrics are some of the worst that Townsend could ever possibly write ("while I cold turkeyed on the sofa"...WTF?!?!?!).
The following song, How Can You Do It Alone, begins sounding dramatic and full of the theatrics that made you fall in love with the Who in the first place. And then, it devolves into this awful TV theme sounding...thing. Again, I ask WHAT THE F*CK? Pete, if you were writing sh*t like this, why the hell did you decide to put it on an album?
The album's lone other saving grace is the closing Another Tricky Day. This time, the piano/keyboards fit in perfectly with the song, and Daltrey and Townsend sound pretty good with their harmonizing. Not to be left out is the solid bassline that Entwistle lays down, and even Jones sounds competent on this song.
Just as the rest of the band's catalog was, this CD was remastered and reissued with bonus tracks. For the most part, the bonus tracks show just how bad the sessions for this album must have been, although the gem of a ballad Somebody Saved Me is included, and one can't help but wonder how this good of a song got left off the original issue of the disc, especially when the original disc was only 9 songs. There's also a nice live version of The Quiet One included.
Only the most diehard fans of The Who need this album. Casual fans would be better served picking up a compilation if they really wanted You Better You Bet (god knows there are a million Who hits comps out there). All in all, Face Dances is perhaps the worst album the band would concoct. The fact that even it has some truly great songs on it just proves that The Who are one of the greatest bands of all time.
More on the Who:
The Who Sings My Generation (Deluxe Edition)
The Who By
Live in Mansfield MA 7/3/00
Live in Mansfield MA 7/26/02 (concert review)
The Ultimate Collection
Live at Royal Albert Hall
The Kids Are Alright (DVD)
Then and Now: 1964-2004