Review by: Jake Myers
Best Songs: “The Good’s Gone”, “My Generation”, “The Kids Are Alright”
Worst Songs: “I Don’t Mind”, “Please, Please, Please”
One thing that’s always fun to imagine is how your average listener in 1965, having just opened the sleeve and put the needle down on this album for the first time, would have reacted. When those first rumbles of feedback came echoing through the speakers, or when the insistent “You don’t know me, no!” chants first appeared, it must have been an exhilarating signal of a new kind of spirit in rock music.
Something we all could have done without, though, is the two James Brown covers. The band may have been rooted deeply in RnB, but to throw out their rocking spirit completely was a mistake. The two songs stumble along without the melodic force of the source material, each instead preferring a bland kind of drone. No thanks.
To be sure, the title track is the best on here. Right from the opening, with the urgent, slamming riff we all know and love and the mocking, stuttering verses, this song earns its reputation as one of the greatest youth anthems ever. It’s strikingly confrontational in comparison to what other bands were singing at the time, although I can just imagine the reaction to be had in 1965 if Daltrey had subbed in an actual “FUCK OFF” at a live show.
But that mod bitterness isn’t present on all the songs. Stuff like “La-La-La-Lies” is as light and poppy as what The Beatles were doing around that time, even if it does sound a lot more streetwise. It’s a strange contrast, but that’s a large part of the charm of this album for me. The gradient shifts more toward grittiness with “The Good’s Gone”, one of my personal favorites. The repetitive, morose “the good’s goooooone” droning of the chorus, almost a chant, and the sneering verses all sound fantastic alongside those dark, grinding riffs.
“The Kids Are Alright” takes things in a different direction with its warm harmonies and more measured delivery, but rest assured the energy and the Mod cynicism are still there. It’s a smooth, infectious song right from the opening chord, and to this day its young Mod spirit remains almost as immortal as that of “My Generation”. “The Ox” is another gem: Keith may seem to dominate the song with his manic thrashing and crashing, but the interplay between guest star Nicky Hopkins (always a treat) and the growling bass of the Ox himself is an exquisite sort of controlled chaos. Then there are some funny throwaways like “It’s Not True” and “A Legal Matter”, which are entertaining enough despite having less depth than the other tracks.
It’s striking to note, after years of listening to classics like “Behind Blue Eyes”, just how obvious the R ‘n B influence is all over this album. Sure, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones took a lot of cues from the genre themselves, but these guys took in rhythm and blues as the main template for their sound, and nowhere is that more obvious than on the debut. The band would morph away from the raw sound of this album soon enough, but the spirit would only continue to grow, and the roots would remain for a good long time.