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Music Review: The Who – Endless Wire

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I have mixed feelings about Endless Wire. I was fine with The Who continuing as a group following Keith Moon’s death in 1978, but John Entwistle’s passing in 2002 hurt my image of the group as an ongoing entity. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, however, have kept The Who alive. They continue to tour and in 2006 released their first studio album in 24 years. Their usual band mates are now Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino plays bass, and John “Rabbit” Bundrick handles the keyboards.

Whether you view Endless Wire as basically a Daltrey/Townshend duet album or a full blown Who release, it is a solid effort. It may not approach Tommy or Who’s Next in terms of quality or consistency, but still produces enough good music to make it interesting and worthwhile.

For a group that sang about wanting to die before they got old, they have produced an intelligent, dignified, and yes a mature album. The anger and rawness may have dissipated, but the passion and energy remain. Over four decades into their career Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are aging gracefully and creatively.

The album is divided into two distinct parts. There are nine songs in the first half while the second part is comprised of the ten song “Wire & Glass: A Mini-Opera.”

The first part of the release works best for me. Townshend proves that he can still construct a good song, and his guitar playing remains at one of the highest levels in rock music. Daltrey’s voice may be a little lower than in his prime, but it is still a potent instrument. My favorite track is the acoustic and beautiful “God Speaks Of Marty Robbins.” “Black Widow’s Eyes,” which may be Daltrey’s best performance on the CD, and the oddly titled “Mike Post Theme” are good rockers. “A Man In A Purple Dress” has a nice stripped down sound.

“Wire & Glass” is more problematic. What’s there is very good in places. The problem is that many of the songs are too short and appear almost unfinished. I have the feeling that such tracks as “Mirror Door,” “Pick Up The Peace,” and “Sound Round” could have been spectacular if a little more effort had gone into their development. Good stuff but just not enough to it.

Endless Wire contains some good music and provides a satisfying listen. It shows that Townshend and Daltrey are not just an oldies band, but can still produce relevant music. Hopefully it will not be another 24 years before they produce a follow-up.

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About David Bowling

  • Paul

    I took my wife and son to see the Who after this album was released. Townshend’s guitar playing was absolutely mind-blowing. Daltrey was just out of bed with laryngitis, but warmed up quickly. Zack Starkey, Pino Palladino, and Simon Townshend were all great, as was the stand-in keyboard player. Great concert. Of course, the classics were terrific, but the new songs sounded great too. My son agreed. And my wife, whose tastes run more to Alison Krauss and Carry Underwood, said she enjoyed the concert much more than expected.

  • Paul

    Keith Moon is probably among my two or three favorite drummers. Entwhistle among my two or three favorite bass players. And Daltrey, among my five, or so, favorite singers. Despite these great musicians, I mainly listen to the Who for Townshend’s songwriting. And Townshend’s songwriting is superb on this album. And, honestly, the musicianship is pretty excellent also.

  • Paul

    Best Who album since Quadrophenia! “Tea and Theatre” IS the emotional highlight. “Mike Post Theme” is also terrific. Just hum some simple TV theme and all is right with the world. That’s hillarious. “Purple Dress” and “Fragments” are very insightful. And the extended versions of “We Got a Hit” and “Endless Wire” are great. And the mini-opera is very good as well. Some of the songs like “Black Widow’s Eyes” and “God Speaks to Marty Robbins” didn’t seem that good on first listen, but really grew on me.

  • Elizabeth

    I listened to this album the wrong way.
    I discovered The Who this summer, listening to assorted songs and almost no full albums from my parents’ collections. Mixed in were We Got A Hit and Fragments (the Baba O’Riley rip-off, could you say?) from Endless Wire, and I listened to them objectively, with no idea that the songs were so much younger than my favorites. Even to my 13-year-old ears, the songs were pretty bad. But when you hear them live, it’s not bad at all. I saw Pete and Roger on their mini tour this fall, and the song Tea and Theater was probably the most emotional number of the night. Pete says it wasn’t written about the aging band–but I don’t believe him.

    “All of us sad – lean on my shoulder now
    The story is done – ‘s getting colder now
    A thousand songs – still smoulder now
    We played them as one – we’re older now”

    Sounds familiar…

  • not that it would have changed the music, but they should have dropped the Who moniker and called this Daltry/Townshend or something like that.

    as a Pete solo record, it’s pretty good.

  • i wanted more from this album than i got. but i encourage all of us, me included, to listen to the whole thing again, a couple times a month. it’ll getchya eventually. 2000 years however….i could 2000 years without needing to hear that again. i can’t believe they played it live at the VH1 rock honors awards. would’ve died for slip kid, naked eye, or eminence front!

    anyways, back to the topic at hand: listen to endless wire again, passively even, and it’ll blossom before your ears. it has for me.

  • Wayne

    I waited 20 odd years for this album and I was so disapponted. It has nothing to due with it not having Keith or John not in it.It has to due with the songs. If the best song on the whole thing is written by Pete’s girlfriend, then you know we are in touble.I have never hit the skip button on a Who cd before.I wore it out on this stinker. Mirror Door and the extended version of We got a hit are about the only other songs that you can listen to.Don’t even get me started on the giveaway dvd that came with it. This album makes Face Dances sound like Beethoven.I still think they have one more great album left in them, but I do not want to take a risk on getting my hopes dashed again.

  • JC Mosquito

    Urk. I’ll go out on a limb and say Pete Towsend & Ronnie Lane’s Rough Mix was closer to the spirit of a Who record than this, which should have been called “Who’s Left?” Sorry, everyone – I consider myself a Who fan and I feel the spirit of the band as an entity or identity in the abstract didn’t show up here hardly at all.

  • Doug

    I mostly agree, but I’m not sure that the anger has dissipated. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more angry song than Man in a Purple Dress.