What should one's expectations be for a new album from a bunch of rock dinosaurs who started making music back in the Jurassic era? A work that manages to catch a faint glimpse of past glories? Given that this is now only really half The Who, perhaps even that is too much to hope for. Imagine my surprise then, when, after a few listens, I fell in love with this new album from Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the two surviving members of this legendary rock band.
The album breaks down into two halves — the first nine songs stand on their own while the final ten make up the mini-opera "Wire & Glass".
The first track, “Fragments” starts with a repeated keyboard refrain before that distinctive Townshend guitar breaks in along with drums from Zak Starkey and bass from master session player Pino Paladino. They’re soon joined by the unmistakable voice of Roger Daltrey. The song itself deals with man’s individuality and the possibility of unity through music. It’s a good way to start but things get better.
“Man In a Purple Dress” was inspired by the film The Passion of the Christ and sees Townshend railing against the pomposity of organised religion, where men need to play dress up in order to commune with god. The arrangement is simple, just acoustic guitar and vocals and it’s very country in style. It’s one of Roger Daltrey's finest moments, not just singing the words but feeling them as well.
I’ve often wondered how Mr Townshend feels about his tunes being used for TV themes and with “Mike Post Theme” he gives me his answer – he thinks it’s cool. Here he pays tribute to the master of the catchy TV theme, Mike Post. After the subtlety of the previous track, it gives Roger a chance to show us he can bawl with the best of them. It’s an incredibly catchy song with a typical Who hook and would make an excellent single (or C.S.I. theme).
Pete does a passable Tom Waits impression on "In The Ether", a song about an aging rock star whose drug abuse has left him confined to a sanatorium. He doesn’t just sing the song but acts it out for the listener and he’s accompanied by some emotive piano and gentle acoustic guitar.