[Review] Pete Townshend: Psychoderelict (1993)

Pete Townshend’s latest musical finds him long in the tooth and a bit too close to the truth.

Kronomyth 10.0: Write city.

It hit me when the 18th individual track rolled around, a stretch of talking called “Dialogue Introduction to Now And Then (Reprise),” how unnecessarily complicated this all was. If you thought Radio K.A.O.S. was work, it’ll feel like a vacation next to this. In light of Pete Townshend’s recent travails (which appear to be unfortunate for everyone involved), I’ll leave discussion of the principal action—an aging rock star corresponds with what he believes to be a 15-year-old girl—for another, brighter day.

Psychoderelict is ambitious, telling the story of a ‘70s rock star who tries to revive his career with a live performance on the Grid (something of an evolution on the Internet that allows people to escape their own realities) while simultaneously being manipulated via a smear campaign architected by a rock critic whom he falls in love with. Complicated, I know, but luckily there’s the lyric sheet to follow—except that half of the lyrics are printed upside down. Apparently, this was a group conspiracy.

The dialogue from the trio of unsympathetic characters (Ray Hines, his manager and bitchy Rosalyn) covers the listener in a greasy, uneasy feeling much of the way. Even when Ray redeems himself with the revelation that leads to “Fake It,” it’s hard to feel good about any of this. In fact, it seems like a weak whitewashing of events after all the dark ugliness that has been squeezed from the story. By album’s end, Townshend’s concept acknowledges its own inability to deliver a better world, once again saving his most scathing remarks for himself.

Salvaging songs from this convoluted concept is probably fool’s work, but here goes: “English Boy” is nearly as fun as “Face the Face,” the combination of “Meher Baba m4 (Signal Box)” and “Early Morning Dreams” is strangely transcendent, and “Outlive the Dinosaur” has a quiet intensity to it. Still (and I never thought I’d say this about any work of art that features gratuitous spanking) I don’t like Psychoderelict. Note that the album was also released in versions with the dialogue edited and the dialogue removed, which results in less talk but not more action.

The Songs

1. English Boy (5:08)
2. Meher Baba M3 (3:31)
3. Let’s Get Pretentious (3:37)
4. Meher Baba M4 (Signal Box) (2:23)
5. Early Morning Dreams (3:55)
6. I Want That Thing (3:58)
7. Dialogue Introduction To “Outlive The Dinosaur” (0:33)
8. Outlive The Dinosaur (3:25)
9. Flame (demo) (1:08)
10. Now And Then (4:25)
11. I Am Afraid (4:35)
12. Don’t Try To Make Me Real (3:00)
13. Dialogue Introduction To “Predictable” (0:34)
14. Predictable (2:17)
15. Flame (Simon Townshend/Josh Phillips-Gorse/Gavin Lewis/Mark Brzezicki/Jaz Lochrie) (2:41)
16. Meher Baba M5 (Vivaldi) (2:36)
17. Fake It (Pete Townshend/Jon Astley/Billy Nicholls/Jon Lind) (3:30)
18. Dialogue Introduction To “Now And Then (Reprise)” (0:33)
19. Now And Then (Reprise) (2:58)
20. Baba O-Riley (demo) (1:21)
21. English Boy (Reprise) (7:04)

All songs written by Pete Townshend unless noted.

The Players

Pete Townshend with Jeremy Allom, Jon Astley, Richard Barnes, Paul Bonnick, Ian Broudie, Mark Brzezicki, John “Rabbit” Bundrick, Chyna, Allan Corduner, Bruce Davies, Julia Duff, Nick Goderson, Linal Haft, Deidre Harrison, Steve Hill, Peter Hope-Evans, Nicola Joss, Kick Horns, Roger Knapp, John Labanowski, Jamie Lane, Dee Lewis, Gavin Lewis, Jody Linscott, Jaz Lochrie, Andy Macpherson, Billy Nicholls, Michael Nicholls, Tessa Niles, Phil Palmer, Josh Phillips-Gorse, Bob Pridden, Jan Ravens, Simon Rogers, Adam Seymour, Paul Stevens, Paul Townshend, Simon Townshend, Nigel Walker, Cleveland Watkiss, Suzy Webb, Lee Whitlock, Paul “Tubbs” Williams, Ian Wilson.

The Pictures

Photography by Andrew Eccles. Cover design by Tom Bowman. Booklet design by Frank Gargiulo.

The Plastic

Released on compact disc and cassette in June 1993 worldwide (Atlantic, 82494); reached #118 on the US charts. Released as promotional 2CD in 1993 in the US (Atlantic, 5103) with and without censored dialogue. Re-packaged as compact disc and cassette in September 1993 in the US (Atlantic, 82535) without the dialogue as Psychoderelict (Music Only).

2 thoughts on “[Review] Pete Townshend: Psychoderelict (1993)

  1. I used to have a copy of the much harder to find ‘music only’ version of this CD, and it is a *lot* better. I have a theory that (almost) any album that was recorded in the CD era (not greatest hits collection, actual albums) can be improved by cutting it down to 35 to 40 minutes, as if it had to fit on 2 sides of vinyl. The music-only Psychoderelict would have been a cracker at 40 mins. Of course, we might have argued about what to leave off…

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