Might as well get the Who stuff out of the way; Yes, he’s Pete Townshend’s baby brother. Has appeared on Who albums from Tommy to Endless Wire, and on tours with the band, Pete and frontman Roger Daltrey. But there’s more to Simon Townshend.
“Forever and a Day,” the anthematic opener here, possesses a sweeping optimism that has nothing to do with his more famous brother and that whole dying-before-you-get-old stuff. Instead, the younger Townshend quickly establishes his own unbridled sense of hope — unvarnished, unconcerned about being cool or leaving himself open to hurt. Then, he approaches the guitar with a sharply refined energy, with nary a windmill in sight.
So, enough about the Who.
“Stay” is the album’s most direct statement of purpose, a unapologetically starstruck love song presented with the gumption of a bar-band — but without the rough edges. Townshend’s shimmering riffs, his layered vocals and nifty word play combine to make every one of these tracks its own clearly defined world. From the soaring title track, just a chest-burstingly anthematic number, to the toe-tapping hooks of “Something New,” from the street-tough attitude of “Electric Friend” to the twilit poignancy of “Still Love,” Townshend displays a firm grasp of a whole spectrum of sounds, textures and moods.
Some of that can be chalked up to the fact that Simon, in the long shadows of Pete and the Who, has already issued six previous solo albums, even while being part of the Casbah Club with the Jam’s Bruce Foxton and Big Country’s Mark Brzezicki. Really, he’s already done more than enough to establish a separate legend.
Yet, most people — quite bizarrely, at this late date — only know him as one of the other guys on stage during the Who’s new Quadrophenia and More tour. Listening, as he rumbles through a profoundly uplifting song like the closing “Make It,” you can’t help but hope that Looking Out Looking In will finally grant Simon Townshend all of the fame he so richly deserves.