Pete Townsend wanted to follow Tommy with Lifehouse, another rock opera, but after two fruitless years and a near-suicidal breakdown, he gave up. Freed from thematic grandiosity, The Who took Lifehouse‘s rough material and made a hit-filled album that was plenty large. “Baba O’Reilly” (named for Townshend’s guru Meher Baba and minimalist composer Terry Riley) opens with a skittering synthesizer that flirts with melody until Townshend moves to the piano and bangs out the iconic notes of a completely different melody. “Behind Blue Eyes” has drumless stretches and an emotional, though not wussy, acoustic guitar lead. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is so dense that it’s hard to believe it’s played by a three piece. In addition to providing enduring lyrics (“Meet the new boss/ Same as the old boss”; “It’s only teenage wasteland”) Who’s Next’s eight tracks provide the only natural curb on the expansion of the C.S.I. franchise.
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