The Who was one of the best rock bands of the past century; Lifehouse: Elements, a solo effort from Townshend, the Who's guitarist and driving force, offers a peek behind the curtain. The album is an abbreviated version of Lifehouse, a Tommy-like multimedia project Townshend hatched in 1970. The show was never mounted in its entirety, but Townshend continued to work on it, and several of its songs--including Won't Get Fooled Again--wound up on the Who's 1971 masterpiece, Who's Next. Elements features less-polished variations that expose the rough edges of Townshend's soul.
Pearl Jam was one of the best bands of the past decade; Binaural shows that it's still a force to be reckoned with (the album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts). The songs--such as the muted but passionate Light Years--are less impatient and rage filled than much of Pearl Jam's earlier work. Lead singer Eddie Vedder, married and mature, seems more focused on emotional detail than moshing. If you're looking for the answer to Who's Next, Pearl Jam, rather quietly, is building a long-term career to rival the rock legends of the past.
--By Christopher John Farley