PETE TOWNSHEND – Psychoderelict (1993)

Review by: Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho
Album assigned by: Graham Warnken

So, for our “pan round”, I was assigned Pete Townshend’s last solo album, a rock opera concept album about himself as a decadent rock star. A sure recipe for something awful, isn’t it? Well, yes, but I had to at least give the record a chance, for fairness’ sake. So I braced myself, tried to rid my mind of my prejudices, and played this thing. By the first listen, the situation wasn’t very auspicious, as the first track, “English Boy”, was supposed to be one of the few highlights here, and I found it bland. Thankfully, considering only the music aspect, the rest is pretty much on the same level, which left me wondering why that particular song got praised. I guess people somehow enjoyed / pretended to enjoy it more than the rest because it tries to recapture the Who’s rocking aesthetics, but it does so without real force and without a strong melody behind it.

During “English Boy”, I would come across what is the main nemesis of this album, the thing that makes an otherwise mediocre release bad: the dialogues. You see, that old school Quadrophenia style of having the story felt only by the songs wasn’t enough for Pete. He had to have voice actors saying bullshit throughout the whole disk, and some of the tracks are nothing but dialogues that go on for over a minute. This killed the album to me. Another album that has problems with dialogues, in my opinion, is Aquemini, which is an album I otherwise love. After every track, it has some skits that, while entertaining, ruin the flow of the music. Psychoderelict is much much worse on this aspect, because the dialogues try to tell an uninteresting story starred by awful characters.

In Psychoderelict’s defence, I must say there was a music-only version. However, it is pretty clear that one is meant to be a “lightweight” version for weaklings, and the true version is the one with the dialogues. Still, I was tempted to listen to that. The point of this round was to listen to awful stuff, though, and if I dared to inflict Zezé di Camargo & Luciano upon someone, then it would be dishonourable not to listen to the piece of garbage in its full form.
Back to music, let me stress that this album is mostly uninspired, it isn’t completely bad. Pete tries to be diverse here, which is a plus. There’s three “Meher Baba” instrumental tracks that taste like microwaved yesterday’s pizza. The third one, strangely numbered “M5”, is the best of them, the only one that managed to get me on a “vibe”. “Don’t Try to Make Me Real” has a good refrain. “Now and Then” has a cool bassline and a weird vocal delivery that works to its favour. That’s it for highlights though. The rest of the disk entered my brain through one ear and left through the other.

What was really unforgettable here was the story. In a very bad way. I don’t know what exactly made Pete think we would be interested in those dialogues, but they’re everywhere! They come before or after the songs in their tracks, they sometimes have their own, dialogue-only, tracks, and in some songs, they even come interspersed with the verses and choruses, so as to give the listener no respite. You’re going to listen to this insipid excuse for a plot, and you’re going to listen to this all the fucking time! And not only the story is extremely badly written, the characters are completely unlikeable assholes, that I hated the first time I heard their voices. I’ll save you the details, because the contents here are incredibly shallow, but I’ll point to two lines that grabbed my attention:

“Dear Lily, thank you for your pictures” WINK WONK

“Rose, you didn’t get, didn’t you. I knew it all the time.” YES THAT IS A LINE THE MAIN CHARACTER SAYS

In a fitting note, the album ends with a dialogue. “What happened to that loving hippy shit?” Fuck you Pete! If you’re daring to diss hippy shit, you fucking better have something better than it to show! Instead, you come up with this, and, really, fuck you!