Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Albums of 1982: Pete Townshend: All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes


Release Date: June 14, 1982

Produced by Chris Thomas

Pete Townshend's third studio record met with a cool reception from critics who found it uneven, yet its moodiness and honesty have made it a stand-out work from the early '80s.

"Stop Hurting People" - Alternated between spoken word and singing supported by thumping bass and synth, Townshend reflects on the nature of love and what it all means. Like many of the tracks, it's got a lot on its mind. The first verse reflects on how love can disappear,"a spark that burned, then died, leaving cinders to be flamed,"  and leave one to close out their hearts and "kill in God's name." Later verses refer to lost love with some poetic grace

My "beauty" needs an understanding of what I am

Her is enough, earned through eons, for that is what true beauty is

Time's gift to perfect humility

He's hoping to be "matched" with her again despite knowing "it's bad," but without it there's "no flame." The repetitive chorus "Stop Hurting People" is a message to the self and the listener, despite what happens - try to break the chain of being hurtful. A song of complex and contradictory feelings adds to the appeal of the record. 

"The Sea Refuses No River" - A song searching for transcendence as the narrator realizes youth is long gone and the path ahead is filled with multiple strains and challenges. Musically resembles songs from Quadrophenia, albeit with a more jaundiced eye.

"Prelude" - The shortest track on the album, effective with the piano and strings creating the send, a late 20th Century dirge.

"Face Dances (Pt.2)" - A single from the album, catchy and in the vein of The Who. Reportedly about Townshend alienation from his wife and bandmates. 

"Exquisitely Bored" - Another song with spoken word verses matched melodic choruses in which Townshend makes observations on American Gigolo era L.A, "There's a whole lot of crazy people up there, living out a life in sweet ennui." Sort of sounds like Mark Knopfler. 

"Communication" - More of an experimental track with more stream of consciousness lyrics

"Stardom in Action" - Another song reminiscent of Quadrophenia, also inspired by Southern California, with reflections on fleeting fame.

"Uniforms (Corp D'Esprit)" - Militarism was in the air in 1982, unlike the directness of The Clash, Townshend takes a quirkier approach.

"North Country Girl" - A version of the Bob Dylan song, reimagined as a swinging synth heavy pop song sounds quite nice. Slightly altered lyrics as well.

"Somebody Saved Me" - Perhaps the moodiest and most confessional track on the album, many references to rehab and possibly the events leading to it and the aftermath.

"Slit Skirts" - Builds into an anthem of encroaching middle age malaise, a relationship on fumes, everything blurred by conflicting emotions. Townshend's evocative lyrics and passionate vocal crystallizes into an epic rocker. 

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, unwieldy title, and all, is an earnest and quite impressive after repeated listening, existing from within and without its era. 

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