REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/26/2007
Now this is shocking.
Honestly, despite my respect for The Who, I didn’t see this coming. Especially from a Who minus Keith Moon (we’ve known that one for a while) and John Entwistle (that one’s new). For God’s sake, half the band is dead; this would be tantamount to Paul McCartney and Ringo getting back together and recording an album as The Beatles. It shouldn’t work.
But gosh darn it if Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey haven’t delivered a much more fitting coda to the band’s career than the godawful It’s Hard. Endless Wire is not a great album, but is in an incredibly solid record with a few moments of sustained brilliance. That’s more than anyone could ask for from The Who at this stage in the game.
Of course the mini-opera on Endless Wire has gotten all the press, but the first half of the record cannot be overlooked. Townshend immediately makes the listener recall the glory days with “Fragments,” a decided mix of “Baba O'Riley” and Philip Glass. “Mike Post Theme” finds Townshend and Daltrey in vintage Who mode, with windmilling guitar riffs and mighty vocal gymnastics everywhere.
By the time “It’s Not Enough” rolls around, marking the end of the first half of the record, Daltrey and Townshend have more than earned enough good will towards their fans, basically erasing the memories of the previous two records to bear the Who moniker. And that’s not even including the Wire & Glass mini-opera that closes out the matter.
Tommy and Quadrophenia were not the tightest of concept records; plenty have been puzzled by the stories both of those albums tell. Things don’t necessarily change with Endless Wire. Even reading through the material online that accompanies the story Townshend seeks to tell in the mini-opera doesn’t really make matters clearer. If anything, the overarching themes and ideas come through “clearer” than a true, defined narrative. The anti-technological spin is very relative for the present and echoes what Townshend attempted to work into the aborted project Lifehouse.
The two shining moments on the second half of Endless Wire come with “We Got A Hit” and “Endless Wire.” The former is classic Who, one of their best songs since The Wbo By Numbers. Driving, relentless and incredibly tight, I imagine this number is a showstopper live. “Endless Wire” is a different beast altogether. Boasting a Townshend vocal, the proceedings are pushed along by some gorgeous acoustic work, with killer harmonies to boot.
All this makes the record sound better than it really is, but I think it’s the aforementioned shock. This record is no embarrassment to the memory of Moon and Entwistle and proves that Daltrey and Townshend did not embarass themselves in old age. The Who may not be what they used to be, but damn it if they can’t make the listener remember the glory days, if just for a little while.