The Who: Endless Wire (PolyGram)

 |   |  1 min read

The Who: Endless Wire (PolyGram)

Right from the opening bars here - a repeated keyboard figure like Baba O'Riley and a crashing power chord - Pete Townshend puts you on notice that the sonic power of The Who, now just him and Roger Daltrey as sole survivors of the original band, is undiminished by the years.

Of course, that's the easy part and when Daltrey enters his voice lacks its former wallop. But that's an impression which doesn't remain. And Townshend is also back on top form penning brittle, angry rock (A Man in A Purple Dress is a swipe at religious figureheads) and some penetrating ballads which stand alongside some of The Who's best work in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

There are many echoes of former greatness here: that opener and the oddly-named Mike Post Theme recall passages from Quadrophenia, and God Speaks of Marty Robbins is a lovely lean ballad. But In the Ether finds Townshend doing his Tom Waits impersonation to no great effect.

Most interest alights on the 11-track mini-opera Wire and Glass, an oddly impenetrable song cycle which seems to be about three kids who become a rock band with all the triumphs and tragedies that journey entails.

Townshend was doubtless thinking of the '79 Cincinnati tragedy (when 11 fans were crushed at a Who show) when he wrote and sang the weary They Made My Dream Come True: People Died Where I Performed.

Daltrey really steps up for the angry, then wistful songs (some of which, like We Got A Hit and Mirror Door, nod back to mid-60s The Who), and the cycle ends with the wistful Tea & Theatre.

After decades of Townshend ambitiously pursuing sprawling concept pieces, these dense songs and the tight mini-opera leave the impression that The Who - like Elton John on his new album - sound at their best when, even 24 years on fromn their last Who album,  they sound like themselves.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes (Sony)

Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes (Sony)

If anyone is long overdue a decent royalty cheque it is the ferociously smart and wickedly funny Chris Bailey, formerly of Brisbane's Saints who delivered the classic pre-punk single (I'm)... > Read more

Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City)

Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City)

Arriving at the tail end of last year, this album was too late for it to be considered by reviewers and so has largely gone unacknowledged. But it has appeared on numerous international "best... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Bill Morris

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Bill Morris

Not many New Zealand musicians could pull a quote about themselves from the influential American magaine No Depression, and certainly not one as glowing as that about Bill Morris.... > Read more

BRANFORD MARSALIS INTERVIEWED (2009): Putting the past to bed

BRANFORD MARSALIS INTERVIEWED (2009): Putting the past to bed

Branford Marsalis, who played in bands with Sting and helmed his own Buckshot LeFonque -- which had a stab at the hip-hop-to-bebop territory -- is these days dismissive of his brief skirmishes with... > Read more