The Who- Endless Wire (Universal Republic)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Fragments
2. 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

Wire & Glass:
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




It's been the year of the dinosaur. 2006 has brought new releases from Pink Floyd's David Gilmour (in addition to a tour from his former bandmate, Roger Waters), the Kinks Ray Davies and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham as well as Bob Seger and Tom Petty. With the year drawing to a close, one of the oldest dinosaurs has resurfaced after a 24-year recording break.

Following 1982's It's Hard, the Who disbanded. Even though they’ve toured rather frequently since then, they never managed to get into the studio to record a full-length follow-up. Now, only writer/guitarist Pete Townshend and lead singer Roger Daltrey remain from the original quartet. But on Endless Wire, the duo shines as Townshend’s songwriting is in top form and Daltrey gives Townshend’s lyrics an excellent voice.

Endless Wire is divided into two very distinct sections – the first half of the disc features nine normal songs while the second is Townshend’s mini-opera “Wire & Glass,” 10 tracks all linked together a la Tommy. For the “song” part of the disc, there are quite a few highlights. “A Man in a Purple Dress” features only acoustic guitar backing Daltrey’s vocals. A tale of religious hypocrisy as well as one of a British legal system where judges put on robes and wigs to pass sentence on others, Townshend said this track was inspired by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Considering Townshend’s legal problems a few years back, this tune definitely has an autobiographical feel – “How dare you be the one to assess/Me in this God-forsaken mess/You, a man in a purple dress.”

For a song driven by mostly acoustic instrumentation (and Townshend on drums), “Mike Post Theme” actually rocks pretty hard. The chorus is quite catchy and always provides a chuckle when Daltrey sings “If there really is a God, we should get laid today.”

Townshend takes over the vocals on “In The Ether,” backed solely by piano and gentle acoustic guitar. His vocal delivery here is much like Tom Waits, giving the song a very unusual feel.

“Black Widow’s Eyes” is a tale of Stockholm Syndrome, relating a survivor’s story from the 2004 Belsan Massacre where terrorists killed 186 school students after taking them hostage. Townshend’s vocal on the chorus is simply chilling.

“It’s Not Enough” is one of the few rockers during the first part of Endless Wire, and as a result of this, it stands out. After so many acoustic tunes, it is very welcome to hear Townshend’s jagged electric playing.

And of mention is the album’s opening number, “Fragments,” a tune that boasts a synth part very reminiscent of the band’s classic “Baba O’Riley.”

While the songs in the first half are definitely solid, it’s the “Wire & Glass” part that dominates Endless Wire. Many of the tracks that comprise this “mini-opera” were released as a single over the summer. But without all of the parts being in place, that single seemed largely disjointed. Now complete, “Wire & Glass” works much better, even though some of the fragments still seem too short. In addition to the “Baba O’Riley” synth part that starts off the disc, “Wire & Glass” has the most vintage Who feel to it as it’s structured in much the same style as classics Tommy or Quadrophenia. I won’t speak about the individual parts because it is really necessary to listen to them all together.

Endless Wire is not perfect as it does miss having a solid rhythm section. While Pino Palladino does a very admirable job of stepping into the late John Entwistle’s shoes, the drumming lacking the spontaneity of Keith Moon’s explosiveness. Unfortunately, Zak Starkey, who has toured with the band for a number of years now, had prior commitments with Oasis and was only available to appear on one track. That said, Townshend’s writing is largely able to overcome this. And the result is a modern Who classic, one of the best releases of 2006.

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