Nonetheless, the album fails to generate a total impact because of its own internal paradox: Instead of the four-sided interaction implicit in the title... Read More
and overriding concept, Quadrophenia
is itself the product of a singular (albeit brilliant) consciousness. The result is a static quality which the work never succeeds in fully overcoming. Townshend has taken great pains with the record, has carried it within him for over a year, has laboriously fitted each piece of its grand scale in place. Yet in winning the battle, he's lost the war and more's the pity.
The hero of Quadrophenia is Jimmy, a young motor-scooted Mod in the throes of self-doubt and alienation. Unlike Tommy, to whom he's destined to be inevitably compared, Jimmy is no simplistic parable or convenient symbol. His loner qualities set him apart from both friends and foes, and though he's more than willing to be led, somehow even that security seems to elude him. Torn between identities, Townshend has gifted him with four, all competing for top seed in Jimmy's confused psyche. In one he is forceful and determined, a master of his fate; another finds him full of brazen daring and rollicking jingoism; yet another softens and romanticizes his nature, giving him a quiet inner strength; and still another reveals him as insecure, searching, the promise of salvation granted and hovering over the next hillrise.
Such is quadrophenia, schizophrenia times two, and Townshend maneuvers this conflict on several levels, each to noticeably good (if fairly evident) effect. Most important of these manifold hooks is the Mod generation out of which the Who sprang, and only secondary (though admittedly the most personally interesting) is the Who itself, four themes ("Helpless Dancer," "Bell Boy," "Is It Me?" and "Love Reign O'er Me") wrestling, congealing, splitting apart throughout the album. As for Jimmy, his frustration at being unable to resolve his separate selves suddenly overwhelms him, so that he smashes his scooter, flees to Brighton on the shore, finally putting to sea in a boat with the vague aim of suicide. This is where we find him at the beginning of side one, lost amidst his flashbacks and disjointed memories, and this is where we leave him, on a note of spiritual uplift and transcendence, at the end.
These are not new concerns for the Who, by any means. Whereas the Kinks always seemed preoccupied with the staid and comfortable middle class in an archetypal love-hate relationship, Townshend and Co. early on turned an affectionate camera eye to their contemporaries,