Sound: The Who's been re-uniting for quite a long time, loosing band members and changing sessional musicians along the way. The latest version of the band features only two of the founding members - Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. Even though half of the band is missing (the drummer Keith Moon died in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle passed away in 2002), they still keep the music business on. And here's the result - the new album (the first in 24 years) Endless Wire.
The released date has been postponed a number of times due to various circumstances, which only grew the anticipation of the fans. It finally happened November 9th. The album itself is 9 tracks, but it features a full version of the mini opera Wire & Glass released last summer plus a DVD with a concert Live at Lyon, recorded July 2006 in Lyon, France. All together it makes quite a voluminous double CD.
There is a number of musicians, who worked on Endless Wire, including Pete Townshend's son Simon Townshend on backing vocals, Peter Huntington sharing drummer duties with Zak Starkey, John "Rabbit" Bundrick on organ, Pino Palladino on bass plus two violin players, a viola and cello player (and this is not the end of the list)!
Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey start the record with Are we breathing out or are we breathing in? still questioning everybody, including themselves, life-time questions as they used to do with the missing members of the band. Most tracks bring back the old memories as the band has been merely evolving over years. The stand-out of the album and the most powerful song is Mike Post Theme where ironically Daltrey yells We're not strong enough/We're not young enough! The song is upbeat and aggressive with a catchy anthem-like chorus -- not something you would expect from two old dudes.
Wire & Glass mini opera is 9 short tracks, pretty nostalgic as can be relied to the band's path and many of them are autobiographical. The whole idea is based on Townshend's novella The Boy Who Heard Music.
Pete Townshend produced the album himself to keep the original The Who sound. Endless Wire is done in the best traditions of classic rock music, neglecting the modern influences. // 9
Lyrics: The subject of age and getting older still presents in The Who's poetry. Forty-one years ago it was Hope I die before I get old (in My Generation). Now it changed to Emotionally we're not even old enough (in Mike Post Theme). Others are dedicated to children and the loved ones. The difference is they take another approach this time -- instead of singing about how much he loves her, Daltrey is now paying the dues (There comes a time in a every little punk's life/When he has to write a song for his common-law wife). There are plenty of anthems on the CD evoking listeners to different actions - like God Speaks Of Marty Robbins challenging Wake up and hear the music/Wake up and hear what the people say.
Daltrey still has the same strength and power in his voice, though now it sounds scratched and there is a certain strain in the vocals. He has to push it to get some moments of the songs, but he's got enough experience to make it sound as if it was meant to be this way. // 9
Overall Impression: I should give them a credit - just for taking a fight and releasing an album of 19 new songs when they could just relax and put out another Greatest Hits CD not bothering to spend time in the studio. It's obvious the fans appreciated it as the album debuted and number 7 on the Billboard album chart.
The band takes it serious, describing every equipment they were using recording the CD as well as giving credits to everybody who worked on the album on the CD booklet. Not anymore a careless guitar-smashing young band, The Who scrupulously finish every track, leaving no details without attention and putting the quality to the first place.
Sad to admit, the age has made it's job - Townshend and Daltrey don't look or sound anywhere close to what they used to, now wearing Diesel advertising t-shirts instead of bright geometrical-colored shirts. But, as Pete Townshend said: "This is not the old Who. We never said it would be. It is something else." // 9
- Kosh (c) 2006