Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.

This is the Bucket Beats List.

Photo courtesy Flickr

Photo courtesy Flickr

The Who’s ‘My Generation’, upon first listen, is wildly dynamic. There’s the backcountry blues-sounding tune of ‘I’m A Man’. The Motown-esque smoothness of ‘Please, Please, Please’. The hymnal chanting of ‘The Good’s Gone’. And, of course, the powerful and punkish titular track.

It all stems really from this being The Who’s first album. While we know largely how the story ends, in 1965 the band was just getting started and, well, hadn’t quite found their niche in the expansive world of music.

Part of it was being new to the “big time” music scene but most of it was just the simple fact that the group was too young to have found a clear and consistent voice. ‘My Generation’ — the album not the song — feels like their journey to discover just that.

The Who My GenerationSo the band experimented. Highs and lows, slow and fast. Hell, on ‘The Ox’ they forewent vocals altogether. Some will say this lead to the  record being so hit-or-miss. But, on one song in particular, The Who hit the bulls eye dead center.

There’s no other way to say it: My Generation — the SONG and not the ALBUM — is darn near perfect. Everything is in-step. It seems to almost break away, rebel even, from the rest of the album. On it, The Who is decidedly less ‘Beatles’ (see: ‘The Kids Are Alright’) and much more ‘Sex Pistols’. This, in turn, yields the song an anthem-like power that nothing else on the record offers.

The real brilliance of the song comes out in Roger Daltry’s vocals. His jamming, stuttering, and jiving lyrics makes it feel as though the band has a new instrument altogether: Daltry’s tongue.

Nothing about the album is particularly weak, but ‘My Generation’ sits atop the rest of the near-dozen songs like a gold nugget on a pile of tarnished brass. It’s not only their first bona fide hit (something that, if you know the band, they’d been searching for for years) but an omen of what the band was to bring.

There are other parts of the record that also help establish the band’s roots. The angst-riddled, youth-driven drive of ‘The Kids Are Alright’ might be noted as songwriter Pete Townshend’s first essay on the perils of growing up, a subject he obviously revisits time and time again on later albums.

Fans will say that this track, which directly follows ‘My Generation’ on the album, was the band’s second-ever hit. That’s fine to think that so long as you admit it doesn’t stand out the way the song just before it does.

Perhaps that’s what ‘The Kids Are Alright’ ultimately suffers from: being stuck in the shadow of a practically flawless song.

It’s a cogent theory, but for my money, there are better songs on the record, anyways. And if there are pieces better than ‘The Kids Are Alright’, the sum of those parts must be, well, pretty damn good.

‘My Generation’ was clearly released with a dearth of polish, almost as if it was picked before being allowed to fully ripen. That leftover rawness is present throughout, starting immediately with the very apparent white static on ‘Out In The Street’ and ending on the meandering chords of ‘The Ox’. But that sophomoric sound allows us to remember the most important fact surrounding the album: it’s The Who’s first attempt.

And if they were that good with such little experience, it’s almost a no-brainer that such amazing things would follow.

Favorite Tracks?
3. The Good’s Gone
2. A Legal Matter
1. My Generation

Least Favorite Tracks?
3. Please, Please, Please
2. Out In The Street
1. La-La-La Lies

Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
Yes, it’s the mutt’s nuts.

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When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for social media shenanigans!