Endless Wire
Producer: Pete Townshend

1. Fragments
2. A Man in a Purple Dress
3. Mike Post Theme
4. In the Ether
5. Black Widow's Eyes
6. Two Thousands Years
7. God Speaks of Marty Robbins
8. It's Not Enough
9. You Stand By Me

Tracks 10-19 compose
Wire & Glass:
10. Sound Round
11. Pick Up the Peace
12. Unholy Trinity
13. Trilby's Piano
14. Endless Wire
15. Fragment of Fragments
16. We Got a Hit
17. They Made My Dream Come True
18. Mirror Door
19. Tea & Theatre



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'Endless Wire' a mark of maturity for the Who


Any band that releases an album past their prime is running a major risk. There will be accusations of a cash-in, those that disparage it as nostalgia, and, of course, endless comparisons to past glory. It can be very difficult to rise above preconceptions, and in turn, very few older bands have been able to pull it off successfully.

So, ornery as ever, the Who, cut in half by death and 24 years removed from their swan song, are attempting just that. Endless Wire, and its mini opera Wire & Glass, marks a new movement in the bands oeuvre, and while it’s not without its bumps in the road, it’s marked by the newly-found wisdom of life and the singular perspective of Pete Townshend.

The mere fact that this album exists is a declaration of artistic daring. Since 2000 the Who had been a steady concert draw, pounding through sets with the energy of 19-year-olds through Europe and North America. There really wasn’t that great a call for new material; the band was more than adept at reinventing and reinterpreting their classics night after night at ear-splitting volume. Their shows were never nostalgia, they were rock and roll in the most urgent sense.

But the bug to create a new chapter in the Who kept biting. Likely, after the unexpected death of John Entwistle in 2002, the core duo of Townshend and Roger Daltrey felt emboldened to make another statement. So, in typical Townshend fashion, hours, weeks and months of toil in the studio followed, expanding ideas, experimenting with formats and writing music that could best exploit this version of the Who — Townshend on guitar and vocals and the seemingly ageless Daltrey on vocals, along with John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keys, Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass and other friends and relatives filling in the gaps along the way.

The waters were tested with “Real Good Looking Boy” and “Old Red Wine” from 2004’s Then and Now compilation, but this is the first real sampling of the new-look Who.

What’s so pivotal to understand with this record is that this is not the Who of 1965, 1975 or even 1982. This is a Who that has never existed before. With the experience of being an on-again, off-again touring band for 23 years, losing the band’s anchor, and making a handful of solo albums, this Who is very much the product of its time and place. The frantic, punk-like energy of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “The Seeker” is not to be seen here; frankly, it couldn’t help but feel forced and unnatural now if it were.

The energy here is different. Mature and refined, an acoustic tinge prevails through the record. But here’s the trick — that isn’t new for these guys, specifically Townshend. Even since before the original demise of the Who, Townshend has been crafting personal, quieter solo albums. The direction of his records never tried to parallel the Who, they were a step sideways away from the band. More so than a follow-up to 1982’s It’s Hard, the Who’s last studio record, this album feels more like the logical next step from 1993’s Psychoderelict, complete with synth loops that echo Who glory of old.

But this is not easy listening, at least not at first. The first run through this album leaves many more questions than answers. “Why is Townshend singing like Tom Waits on ‘In the Ether?’” “Where’s the energy?” “What is Wire & Glass about?” To be honest, it’s hard not to feel a bit disappointed after the initial 52:38. But, going back a second, fourth, sixth time, the songs begin to resonate more fully. The depth of Townshend’s messages, whether they’re in the rock meditation “Mike Post Theme,” the quiet acoustic “God Speaks, Of Marty Robbins” or the resigned air of “Tea & Theatre,” shine through.

The acoustic songs are what hit hardest. As good as the classic Who rocker “It’s Not Enough” sounds, the power of “Tea & Theatre” leaves the listener reeling in the best possible way. It’s through the understated tracks that the maturity earned through 45 years in music comes through. And Daltrey’s delivery, his voice seemingly ageless, could fill the Royal Albert Hall effortlessly. Townshend is more than capable of carrying his own compositions, but it’s Daltrey’s interpretation that turns Townshend’s songs into the Who.

And, in turn, that’s what makes this record the next step in the natural progression of the Who. Break-ups, deaths, solo gigs, reunions, and finally, this. It’s very likely that this is the last word from one of the most influential bands we’ve seen since the Beatles, and if so, it’s a fitting end. On Endless Wire, what’s left is two friends making music in the face of unrealistic expectations, worldwide pressure, and the desire to make one last stand in rock.

E-mail Nick Tavares at