Endless Wire

( 13 )

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Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Pete Townshend has never approached the making of an album blithely. From the earliest days of the Who -- as evidenced by masterful pop suites like Sell Out and A Quick One -- Townshend has been almost obsessive about creating set pieces that cohere like the works of our best novelists and filmmakers. Endless Wire is no exception to that rule. More than two decades removed from the Who's last studio offering, the disc -- which is divided into two movements -- evinces both a growth and a sense of tradition, the latter best expressed in the "Wire and Glass" suite that closes out the album. The Quadrophenia-like story line follows the meandering path of a rock band led by...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Pete Townshend has never approached the making of an album blithely. From the earliest days of the Who -- as evidenced by masterful pop suites like Sell Out and A Quick One -- Townshend has been almost obsessive about creating set pieces that cohere like the works of our best novelists and filmmakers. Endless Wire is no exception to that rule. More than two decades removed from the Who's last studio offering, the disc -- which is divided into two movements -- evinces both a growth and a sense of tradition, the latter best expressed in the "Wire and Glass" suite that closes out the album. The Quadrophenia-like story line follows the meandering path of a rock band led by a character known as Ray High that, to some degree, parallels that of the Who. Townshend doesn't pull any punches in painting the protagonist, who starts off in the soaring "Sound Round" as a tortured visionary whose troubles and/or visions land him, in the darker, more introspective "Pick Up the Peace," in an institution. The song cycle encompasses both triumph -- best revealed on the one-two punch of the eminently infectious "We Got a Hit" and "They Made My Dream Come True," both of which showcase Roger Daltrey's still-potent pipes -- and the sort of tragedy evinced in "Mirror Door," a roll call of departed stars that comes in a nod to Keith Moon and John Entwistle to members of the fictional band Townshend constructed for "Wire and Glass." While the first half of Endless Wire isn't quite so linear in its construction, there are certainly recurring themes, notably Townshend's suspicion about organized religion and his concurrent quest for spiritual enlightenment -- the former of which arises on the acid "Man in the Purple Dress" and the latter on the "Baba O'Riley"-styled "Fragments." There's plenty of stylistic spelunking to be had here, from the country venturing of "God Speaks to Marty Robbins" to the Broadway inflections of "In the Ether," which features a rare Townshend lead vocal turn. The novelty of new recordings from Daltrey and Townshend is probably enough of a lure to coax classic rock diehards into peeking behind the Wire, but the intrigue that lurks within is sure to keep folks ensnared for the long run.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The Who retired following their 1982 farewell tour but like Frank Sinatra's frequent retreats from the stage, it was not a permanent goodbye. Seven years later, the band -- Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle; that is, Keith Moon's replacement Kenny Jones wasn't invited back -- embarked on a reunion tour, and ever since then the band was a going concern. Perhaps not really active -- they did not tour on a regular basis, they did not record outside of a version of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" for the 1991 Elton John and Bernie Taupin tribute album Two Rooms -- but they were always around, playing tribute gigs and reviving old projects, such as a mid-'90s stab at Quadrophenia, before truly reuniting as an active touring band after the turn of the century. Just as they were reaching cruising altitude in 2002, bad luck and tragedy intervened, as Entwistle died from a heart attack on the eve of a summer tour, leaving Townshend and Daltrey the only surviving original members. Their decision to continue performing as the Who rankled some longtime fans -- many of whom thought they should have packed it in after Moon's death in 1978 -- but the ensuing tours helped them work through their grief, not only over Entwistle's death but during the fallout surrounding Pete Townshend's arrest for accessing child porn on the internet. Townshend was cleared of all charges, and throughout the turmoil of the scandal he had no stronger defender than Daltrey. According to several interviews with both men, the process brought them closer together and they began seriously talking about recording a new Who studio album -- something that had not happened since It's Hard in 1982. They tentatively dipped their toes in the water with a couple of strong new songs on the 2004 hits comp Then and Now, and two years later, they followed through with the long-promised, long-awaited Endless Wire. Opening with a synth riff that strongly recalls, if not directly quotes, the famed loop underpinning "Baba O'Reilly," Endless Wire often hearkens back to previous Who albums in its themes, structure, and sound. The "Baba O'Reilly" riff pops up in "Fragments," the pummeling triplets of "The Punk Meets the Godfather" resurface in "Mike Post Theme." Like The Who by Numbers, it has its fair share of stark acoustic introspection. Like The Who Sell Out and A Quick One, it closes with a mini-rock opera, this one called "Wire & Glass." This closing suite also shares a lineage with Townshend's 1993 solo album Psychoderelict, a record that's not well loved but one that is connected thematically to Lifehouse Chronicles, his often-muddled yet often-intriguing futuristic rock opera that seemed to suggest portions of a technologically saturated internet age. Such ideas bubble up throughout Endless Wire and not just on "Wire & Glass," yet that opera specifically shares a character with Psychoderelict in Ray High, a rock star who was the central figure in that 1993 opus and functions as a semi-autobiographical distancing device for Townshend, particularly on this record where the narrative ebbs and flows and sometimes disappears completely. Since the whole of Townshend's rock operas always were overshadowed by the strength of their individual parts -- musically and emotionally, "Pinball Wizard," "Bargain," "Behind Blue Eyes," "The Real Me" and "Love Reign O'er Me" carried as great a weight, if not greater, on their own as they did as part of a larger theme -- this is not unusual or unwelcome, because the focus turns away from the specifics of the narrative and to the merits of the songs and the Who's performances, and how they connect at a gut level. And, like much of the best of the Who's work, the best of Endless Wire does indeed connect at a gut level, even if it's in a considerably different way than it was in the past: instead of being visceral and immediate, this is music carries a slow burn. This is partially because they are no longer driven by Moon and Entwistle, but quite frankly, this most manic of rhythm sections never really anchored the Who; Townshend always did with his furious windmills and propulsive rhythms, and there was never any question that this, along with his songs, formed the complex, contradictory heart of the Who, while Daltrey gave the songs both muscle and a commonality, undercutting Townshend's pretensions -- or giving him a voice behind which to hide, a voice to act out his best and worst impulses. After all the upheaval of the first part of the 2000s, Townshend needed to have Daltrey interpret his songs, which do confront many tough emotions and questions regarding faith, mortality and persecution, albeit often in oblique ways. For a writer as obsessed with concepts and fictionalized autobiography as Townshend, obliqueness serves him well, and often turns out to be more revealing than blunt confessionals, as is the case with "A Man in a Purple Dress," a searing, bitter, anti-religion folk tune reportedly inspired by a viewing of The Passion of the Christ but unmistakably bearing echoes of Townshend's treatment in the tabloids during his 2003 scandal. Townshend does not sing this tune, Daltrey does, and it's an angry performance that leans heavily on his blunt force, but also reveals a new subtlety that serves him very well throughout Endless Wire. Instead of powering through the songs as he could tend to do in the past, Daltrey is truly interpreting Townshend's songs here, giving them nuanced, textured readings that cut close to the emotional quick of the tunes. His voice may have lost some of its range and power over the years, but Daltrey has developed into a better singer, and he helps ground Endless Wire, which doesn't meander so much as it overreaches, a trend not uncommon to either the Who or Townshend. Even the best Who albums had a tendency to not quite follow through on their concepts -- the mock pirate-radio broadcast of The Who Sell Out is abandoned on the second side, Who's Next was pulled together from the flailing Lifehouse -- but even so they were nevertheless triumphs given the sheer power of the band, or Townshend's writing. Here, the band is indeed changed, and while they have top-notch professional support from drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino, they do not sound like a session band: they sound like the Who, only older, with their boundless energy replaced by a bittersweet melancholy undercurrent. It's a sound that fits Townshend's new songs, alternately sweetly sad, bitterly reflective and, despite it all, cautiously optimistic. Unlike the fussy theatricality of The Iron Man or the impenetrable mess that was Psychoderelict -- or any Townshend project since It's Hard, really -- Endless Wire is not a slave to its concept; the songs fuel the album instead of the other way around. Even when it goes off the tracks -- and it does, most grandly on the bizarre "In the Ether," where Townshend affects Tom Waits' patented growl -- it feels as if it was written from the heart, which is why it's always appealing even though it feels curiously disjointed, with the The Who by Numbers-styled first half not quite synching up with the mini-opera that dominates the second side. It may not add up to a totally satisfying whole, yet within both halves of Endless Wire there is much to treasure: on the first half, there's the incendiary "A Man in a Purple Dress," the powerful yet understated "Mike Post Theme," the delicate "God Speaks of Marty Robbins," a surging rocker in "It's Not Enough" whose lyrics are riddled with the self-doubt of Empty Glass and the sweet song sketch "You Stand by Me"; on the second, there's the mini-opera of "Wire & Glass," a ten-song suite beginning with the rampaging "Sound Round" and closing with the haunting "Tea & Theatre," that manages to touch on every one of the band's strengths. Taken on its own, "Wire & Glass" does stand as the greatest Who music since Who Are You, so it's a bit hard not to wish that the entire album had its thematic cohesion, muscular melody, and sense of purpose, but if it meant losing the quite wonderful highlights of the first half, it may not have been worth it because they're not only strong songs, they give this record its ragged heart. No, Endless Wire is not perfect -- its parts don't quite fit together, and not all of the parts work on their own -- but it is an endearingly human, impassioned work that more than justifies Townshend's and Daltrey's decision to continue working as the Who. Hopefully, it will lead to another record or two but if it doesn't, Endless Wire is certainly a better final Who album than It's Hard, which is quite an accomplishment after a quarter-century hiatus. [This version of the CD comes with a bonus DVD.]
Washington Post - Shannon Zimmerman
"Endless Wire" is an album that longtime Who fans will likely love -- and one that might even win the group a new generation of converts.
The Associated Press
1/2 The legendary rock band...is back -- older, not as invincible, but still rocking out.

"Endless Wire" is an album that longtime Who fans will likely love -- and one that might even win the group a new generation of converts.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/31/2006
  • Label: Republic
  • UPC: 602517091467
  • Catalog Number: 000784610

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Fragments (3:57)
  2. 2 A Man in a Purple Dress (4:14)
  3. 3 Mike Post Theme (4:28)
  4. 4 In the Ether (3:35)
  5. 5 Black Widow's Eyes (3:07)
  6. 6 Two Thousand Years (2:50)
  7. 7 God Speaks to Marty Robbins (3:26)
  8. 8 It's Not Enough (4:02)
  9. 9 You Stand by Me (1:36)
  10. 10 Sound Round (1:21)
  11. 11 Pick up the Peace (1:28)
  12. 12 Unholy Trinity (2:07)
  13. 13 Trilby's Piano (2:04)
  14. 14 Out on the Endless Wire (1:51)
  15. 15 Fragments of Fragments (2:23)
  16. 16 We Got a Hit (1:18)
  17. 17 They Made My Dreams Come True (1:13)
  18. 18 Mirror Door (4:14)
  19. 19 Tea & Theatre (3:23)
  20. 20 We Got a Hit (3:04)
  21. 21 Endless Wire (3:05)
Disc 2
  1. 1 I Can't Explain
  2. 2 Behind Blue Eyes
  3. 3 Mike Post Theme
  4. 4 Baba O'Riley
  5. 5 Won't Get Fooled Again
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
The Who Primary Artist
Roger Daltrey Vocals
Pete Townshend Banjo, Guitar, Mandolin, Violin, Vocals, Background Vocals, Viol
Simon Townshend Guitar, Drums, Background Vocals
Ellen Blair Viola, Guest Appearance
John "Rabbit" Bundrick Keyboards, Hammond Organ
Billy Nicholls Background Vocals, Guest Appearance
Pino Palladino Bass, Bass Guitar
Zak Starkey Drums
Stuart Ross Bass, Guest Appearance
Brian G. Wright Violin, Guest Appearance
Rachel Fuller Keyboards, Guest Appearance
Gill Morley Violin, Guest Appearance
Jolyon Dixon Acoustic Guitar, Guest Appearance
Peter Huntington Drums, Guest Appearance
Lawrence Ball electronics, Guest Appearance
Vicky Matthews Cello
Technical Credits
Roger Daltrey Liner Notes
Pete Townshend Composer, Producer, Liner Notes, Orchestration, drum programming, Instrumentation
Billy Nicholls Audio Production, Vocal Producer
Alan Rogan Guitar Techician
Bobby Pridden Engineer, Audio Production, Vocal Producer
Ian Cooper Mastering
Richard Evans Art Direction
Rachel Fuller Composer, Orchestration
Myles Clarke Engineer
Lawrence Ball Composer
Matt Hay Engineer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Who still have it, mates!

    There's material on here that rivals the best of their past: Sound Round, Mike Post Theme, We Got a Hit, Fragments, Man in a Purple Dress, Tea and Theater. This is not to be missed. It rocks, and also has a sublime subtlety never before achieved by the Who. Looking forward to even more new material from you, Pete. God bless the 'Oorible 'Oo forever!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    meaty beaty old and ploding

    A two decade wait for 'THIS"? Pete forgot that The Who are supposed to rock. This is a boring waste of time. Snoooooooore......

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    well worth the wait

    As a Who fan for over 30 years I bought this with a tinge of skepticism. 24 years is a long time between releases{13 years since Townshend's Psychoderelict}This is a mature Townshend and Daltrey. Townshend has never been more focused and reflective. Daltrey's voice has lost range and some power but he has learned to narrate each song with a connection that only comes with age and experience. Since Entwistle and Moon are no longer with us the Drums and Bass are relegated to the background on some of the tracks. They only come to the surface when actually needed. Instead we get a chance to hear some beautiful Mandolin,Banjo and Acoustic Guitar work from Townshend throughout the album. This is an album where they are not playing for 20 yr.old kids but for those of us who have been with them for the past 20,30 or 40 years. Buy it and savor for there may not be any more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Endless Wire-Still Great But A Matured WHO

    If you like The Who believe me they still have it even after their lost of Entwistle back in 2002! Yes The Who are back better than ever considering that it was really always Pete and Roger who were the nucleus of the band during The Who's early days. This long awaited Who album once again shows Pete Townshend's artistic and genius abilities. Roger Daltrey can still sing with much emotion even though he has perhaps lost just a minor degree of his dynamic range. Buy the album as there is a peace of music for every Who fan, and oh it only sounds better the more that you listen to it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Solid Album

    When I first heard this album, I thought "pretty good for a 24 year break" I listened again and this time listened hard to the lyrics and realized how great this album is. The words are poeticly written, and Daltrey does an excellent job singing them. Some choice tracks: Fragments, Mike Post Theme, Black Widows Eyes, It's Not Enough, Sound Round, Pick Up the Peace, Endless Wire, Fragments of Fragments, We got a Hit, Mirror Door, We Got A Hit [Extended Version], Endless Wire [Extended Version],

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Raw and rounded

    Just having my first listen to this album, and my first impressions are ... wow. From the first track with its Baba O' Riley'ish start to the sublime Black widows eyes, this is a real treat and well worth the 20 odd year wait. I also love the way it has been recorded, almost stripped bare of modern recording techniques. Pete and Rog, and the rest of the guys .. Thank you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Brilliant, my dear Townshend, you've done it again!

    24 years is a long time, especially if it's the last time a great band like The Who released an album. It's Hard has a few good songs, but it didn't hold up very well over time. But now, despite the fact that Townshend & Daltrey are the only genuine members of The Who, they still carry the weight that brought the magic into their best work. I've only heard 30 second snippets of the songs, but I can't wait until I hear the rest of the CD. They leave another mark on their name that will surely stand with them through time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Awesome Who

    This album is wonderful! Signature Who sound, but like always, nothing we've ever heard before. I definately recommend this album to any and all Who fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    THE EXPLOSIVE RETURN OF THE WHO

    Quite simply....A Masterpiece!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A project worth the wait

    I saw the Who in Detroit and heard some of this album live which was great. I was thrilled to see the new music from a group that has so influenced my musical taste and has been a great concert to see every couple of years. The sad thing is that there was probably more music that could have been made in the time span between "it's hard" and "endless wire" but the main thing is that we have this great album to enjoy forever.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Proper Expectations Required

    Whoever wrote that this falls in the category with "Sell Out" is right...more a collection of themes than songs, it's difficult to take in at first. The best moments of this album are its quietest: country and ballad songs like "Man in a Purple Dress" and "Endless Wire." "Tea and Theater" is a simple little song, and the best showcase for Roger's voice. The single, and the only true rock piece, is "It's Not Enough," which sounds like it could have come straight from Pete's Psychoderelict album. "Fragments" never gets into gear, in spite of its "Baba O'Riley" intro, and "Mike Post Theme" just misses. It feels plodded down by its own lyrics, which doesn't happen often in a Pete Townshend song. The mini-opera, "Wire and Glass" is a mess of mismatched themes, assembled like stop-and-go traffic. There's not much in it to like, except for Pete's turn at singing "Fragments." This is a TAME album...the drumming (Starkey) and bass (Palladino) are especially quiet, routine, and unassuming. 4 or 5 songs will end up on my MP3 player, and, if this is it for The Who, it's a fine chapter in the history of a band who no longer has to be remembered for "It's Hard" as its last album.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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