The Who: Endless Wire

By John Reed

Apparently Pete Townshend likes to work at a snail's pace. So the near quarter-of-a-century that we all waited to see a complete new album from The Who should be no surprise for those who know Townshend.

Hell, fans of The Who collectively held their breaths from 1983 (the year the band first split) to 1999, when The Who finally regrouped as a working band. (In between, there were brief reunion tours in 1989 and 1966-97.) And after a powerhouse US tour in 2000 and the band's show-stealing set at the Concert For New York in 2001, they were on their way to reclaiming their self-proclamation in the '70s as the World's Greatest Rock Band.

However, after the unexpected death of bassist John Entwistle on the eve of the band's 2002 tour, it seemed for a day or so that the band might be finished. That was put to rest as Entwistle was quickly (and kind of insensitively) replaced by Pino Palladino, and the band soldiered on. Not only have they carried on, but The Who has been more active as a band than they had been since the early '80s.

As Townshend has been promising new material for years, he finally has delivered an entirely new product with Endless Wire. While new releases from most classic rock bands don't usually do much as far as chart action goes, Endless Wire had a respectable debut at #7 on the Billboard Top 200 during its first week of release.

While the new album is nowhere in the league of legendary classic Who creations (Who's Next, Quadrophenia, The Who By Numbers) or even as good as some of their past good records (Who Are You), Endless Wire contains 21 new songs, including "Wire & Glass," a 10-song mini-opera. All in all, the album is more ambitious than one would expect, but it is not really a Who album that one will spin on the regular level of the before-mentioned records.

The "Wire and Glass" story shows that Townshend has not totally gotten the rock opera bug out of his system. And much like his other operatic jaunts, Tommy and Quadrophenia, the songs on "Wire and Glass" stand apart better as solo songs than trying to follow Townshend's once-again disjointed narrative. While Townsend's talent for writing good songs is still alive, Roger Daltry is the biggest surprise as his gravelly vocals still have plenty of power left, and he saves what could have been an average Townshend solo CD into a very good Who album. His passionate tone is what turns the cut "It's Not Enough" from a great song into a virtual future chestnut in The Who's catalogue.

Since the band is down two members, it is technically difficult to still call them "The Who." But in a world where the state of Rock is not a good one, we still need The Who in any form.

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[Published on: 11/11/06]

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Comments

All Loving Liberal White Guy Fri 11/10/2006 05:05PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

all due respects to daltrey and townsend, but without the ox on his bass duties (let alone kieth moon giving the skins a pounding) listening to this album would just feel like another band.

tsunami42 starstarstarstar Sat 11/11/2006 08:40AM
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tsunami42

Daltrey's voice isn't anywhere near top of form, watching the DVD extra (Live from Lyon), they just look old and tired. But I'm shelling out $100 to see them in Denver.

theorb419 Sat 11/11/2006 08:39PM
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theorb419

there was a 31 year reunion tour?

mosb3 starstarstarstar Sun 11/12/2006 03:54AM
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Haven't had achance to get the new one yet, but on a live note - they still knock everyone else out. I miss the Ox terribly but he simply can't be replaced by anyone. But Zak on drums is tremendous and Pete's guitar is much more aggressive to fill the space. And of course, the material...
Nice review by the way, very thoughtful and considered. It's hard to review Townsend as many songs take time to unfold properly. Well done.

phreak89 starstarstarstar Mon 11/13/2006 07:06PM
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phreak89

i do like that Pete and Roger are coming back but it is hard to acctually call them "The Who". you could'nt take Pual and Ringo and put them on stage and call them "The Beatles"...

kcPHisher Mon 11/13/2006 09:34PM
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kcPHisher

It's TownsHend

philhitz Wed 11/15/2006 10:29AM
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maybe the album should have been titled 'who are they kidding?'

blackdirtliveagain starstarstarstar Mon 11/20/2006 11:52AM
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if axl can call it g-n-r, then fucking pete and roger can can it the who.

crowesfan Mon 11/20/2006 06:51PM
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crowesfan

The Who still have it. I saw them in Dallas last Friday and they were still spectactular. Roger Daltrey's voice is still as good as it was back in the seventies. Townsend's guitar playing sounded unbeliveable. Yes they are missing the Ox and Moon, but when it is just Daltrey and Townsend on stage doing an all acoustic song you realize that they are still just as good as they were in the 60's and seventies. The new album is awesome too. Can't wait for the new Keith Moon movie. They should have got jason Schwartzman to play him over Mike Myers because he actually looks like Keith Moon and can already play the drums.

gmoo Tue 11/21/2006 01:03PM
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gmoo

did you really just make an axl rose comment...lame

doncardo starstarstar Tue 12/12/2006 04:58PM
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I think Pete should be allowed to work with other musicians, we never held Muddy Waters or Duke Ellington to this standard. He wrote the songs and plays guitar as well as ever. I do think Daltrey is strained, but the grumble, growl mode still works even if the scream doesn't. I am glad their life force continues even if Moon and Entwistle had more of a short-run (it was largely their own doing) - they did not wreck this re-tooled band. It's still great to see and hear them. More info on the album would have been nice the mini-opera is only part of it - and the version they play live is the same more effective shortened version they released on EP. Also thier concerts are all available on themusic.com. And great tracks on this record include Mike Post Theme, Man in a Purple Dress, and Black Widow's Eyes (about Stockholm syndrome). It's varied and not everything works, but it's great as art, and a hell of a lot better than the last 3-4 sad sack point of view records they put out after Quadrophenia. Don't get me wrong those lp's had great songs and performances, but Pete's heart and conviction were not as strong as they are now in '06.