Stir Records [Release date 07.10.16]
As The Who move inexorably towards their final hoorah, Pete Townshend’s brother Simon – a mere nipper at the age of 55, and a part of the touring band for the past 20 years – has decided it’s time to revitalise his own back catalogue on his own label with remastered reissues of his last two albums – Looking Out Looking In (2012) and Denial (2014), both with bonus tracks. Both were originally US-only releases.
As far as his solo work goes, you can park the Who connection – while he grew up around the band, his influences in the 1970s were far wider – his own vocals having the vaguest hints of Gabriel/Collins-era Genesis (he was a fan back in the day) mixed with elements of Tom Petty and Elvis Costello, and musically the material is on a par with the solo output of Thunder guitarist Luke Morley – well-crafted soft rock more naturally attuned to American audiences.
With a solid supporting cast of son Ben on drums and Tony Lowe (lead guitar, bass and piano) complementing his own vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, and mandolin; the bonus tracks on Looking Out Looking In feature Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder (who Townshend has worked with and who regards himself as a fan).
By his own admission not the most naturally gifted of guitarists or singers, Townshend has worked hard to make the most of his attributes and opportunities, and while neither album is going to knock any doors down, they’re good ‘honest’, uncomplicated, works of a solid jobbing musician.
There’s just the faintest of hints in some of the rhythm guitar work and chord progressions of The Who (naturally enough, given his close association with the band over the last two decades), but in essence the projects are poles apart.
The greatest strengths on display here lie in the song writing which, in the right hands, feels like it could undoubtedly score big. But in their current unassuming form, while toe tapping, admirable, and an enjoyable listen, neither re-release is likely to set any pulses unexpectedly racing. ***1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
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