The Who – Endless Wire
CD Review by Antionne "Fig" Newton

12/2006
 
           
 

 

 

"Endless Wire" is the first studio album by The Who in nearly a quarter of a century. "It's Hard," from 1982 was their last release and since that time the band has gone through a whirlwind of changes. They embarked on a farewell tour in 1982 which, as it turns out, was not a permanent farewell because the band reunited seven years later for a series of reunion concerts. After that however, they only performed sporadically and did no recording at all with the exception of a rollicking version of "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" for the Elton John / Bernie Taupin tribute album "Two Rooms," released in 1991. In 2002 bassist John Entwistle died of a heart attack the night before the band were to embark on a summer tour and the following year Pete Townshend was arrested (and eventually cleared of all charges) for accessing child pornography on the internet. The adversity of it all brought Townshend and lead singer Roger Daltrey closer together and the prospects of recording a new studio album by The Who soon became a reality.

The band on "Endless Wire" is comprised of Townshend, Daltrey, drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo's son) bassist Pino Palladino, guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete's younger brother) and keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick. They sound very much like the original group, but with less of a bombastic edge and a bit more subtlety – a sound that lends itself to Townshend's melancholy and reflective material. His introspective acoustic style is very effective on gritty tunes like "You Stand By Me," a homage to Daltrey, who stuck by Townshend's side during tumultuous times and "A Man in a Purple Dress," a bitter anti-religion tune fueled by Townshend's disdain of the media during his 2003 pornography debacle. Fans of the classic Who sound with all its might and muscle may be slightly disappointed, but the current band have retained some of the original fire while moving in a more subtle direction. Remnants of their old sound are ever present as evidenced on the first track, "Fragments" which opens with a synthesizer riff reminiscent of the classic opening on "Baba O'Reilly," before exploding into a mid-tempo rocker. Closing out the album with the final 10 tracks is Townshend's latest mini rock opera entitled "Wire and Glass," parts of which were released as a limited edition CD single earlier this year. "Wire and Glass" is the highlight of the disc, reassuring long-time fans that Townshend has not lost his touch when it comes to creating a cohesive body of work.

The lead and background vocals on "Endless Wire" are all top notch, and even though Daltrey's trademark gut-wrenching style has been tainted slightly by the passage of time, he still has the ability to inject a lot of muscle into the music. This may not be the best project ever produced by The Who, but it does have tremendous merit, as it justifies that Townshend and the band are still very capable of making a significant contribution to the world of rock and roll. It's also a much better album than its quarter-century-old predecessor, "It's Hard," and after all these years that in itself is quite an accomplishment.

   
           
     

CD track listing
1.

Fragments

2.

A Man In A Purple Dress

3.

Mike Post Theme

4.

In The Ether

5.

Black Widow's Eyes

6.

Two Thousand Years

7.

God Speaks of Marty Robbins

8.

It's Not Enough

9.
You Stand By Me
10.
Sound Round
11.
Pick Up The Peace
12.
Unholy Trinity
13.
Trilby's Piano
14.
Endless Wire
15.
Fragments of Fragments
16.
We Got A Hit
17.
They Made My Dream Come True
18.
Mirror Door
19.
Tea & Theatre
20.
We Got A Hit (Extended Version)
21.
Endless Wire (Extended Version)
Label: Republic / Release date: 10/31/2006