This album, the third from the boys, is a concept album in every sense. Conceived as a pirate radio broadcast but really a satirical take on how advertising and music combine, it’s interspersed with comic skits and fake adverts that feel totally modern and never stop being funny, and nothing captures the sense of levity throughout than that cover art.
Still, it’s not a novelty album, oh no. While it’s full of sharp humour, like on the brilliant “Odorono” and “Tattoo”, let’s be very clear here, this album rocks.
Opening track “Armenia City in the Sky” is an epic, soaring piece of guitar rock with a psychedelic twist, and that distinctive Who sound is there again in the likes of chart-topper “I Can See For Miles”, with Keith Moon at his insane best.
This album is a belter, no doubt about it, but between those savage beats and moments of razor-sharp humour, there’s a wealth of skilled harmony and songwriting too. “Our Love Was” is lovely, and the later track “Sunrise” is beautiful and drifting.
The Who have been accused of occasionally being a bit po-faced and serious, but “The Who Sell Out” is an album that’s skilled and sharp and more than able to laugh at itself. It’s also a dramatic change of direction from the far more traditional mod-rock “My Generation”, and paved the way for epics like “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia” in later years.
And for me, discovering it fresh for the first time (I know, I know…), it was an amazing surprise that will no doubt get a good few listens going forwards.