Recorded April 21, 1980
Pete Townshend was heading toward collapse as the '70s turned into the '80s. He had battled a number of personal demons throughout the '70s, but he started spiraling downward after Keith Moon's death, questioning more than ever why he did what he did (and this is a songwriter who always asked questions). Signs of that crept out on Face Dances, but he saved a full-blown exploration of his psyche for Empty Glass, his first solo album since Who Came First, a vanity project released to little notice around Who's Next (so limited in its distribution that Empty Glass seemed like his solo debut). Some of the songs on Empty Glass would have worked as Who songs, yet this is clearly a singer/songwriter album, the work of a writer determined to lay his emotions bare, whether on the plaintive "I Am an Animal" or the blistering punk love letter "Rough Boys." Since this is Townshend, it can be a little artier than it needs to be, as on the pseudo-Gilbert & Sullivan chorus of "Keep on Working," but the joy of Empty Glass is that his writing is sharp, his performances lively, his gift for pop hooks as apparent as his wit. Though it runs out of steam toward the end, Empty Glass remains one of the highlights of Townshend's catalog and is one of the most revealing records he cut, next to his other breakdown album, The Who by Numbers.
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