So the Who has released a new album. I'm sure I am the only one really that excited that after almost 25 years of no new material we have a new album from one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time (and obviously my all time favorite.) So those skeptics who haven't bought it or at least downloaded it(il)legally yet will now have a guide why they should or shouldn't get it.
I love the Who, but I will be as unbiased as possible. For me, Endless Wire is the Who's best effort since the passing of Keith Moon. However, this album has only hints of the old Who. The 80's Who albums, Face Dances and It's Hard, sound more like solo Pete stuff with sweet licks of Entwistle here and there. And many times on Endless Wire, we get these same feels. A song like "It's Not Enough" reeks of these 80's albums which isn't bad, but those albums were voiding that extra Who umph that they had with Moony and The Ox. Needless to say, it's still a decent song and an obvious first single.
That being said, here is my track by track breakdown of Endless Wire.
The album starts with "Fragments" which is a flashback to the ideas Pete wanted to perform with songs like "Baba O'Rielly" and "Sister Disco" with oscilating synths. This time he actually worked on what he wanted to do for many years and created one of the first peices of music completely composed by a computer. It sounds almost exactly like "Baba" when it starts but goes into a less kick-to-the-teeth style song. It's a decent starter song, but nothing to get you fully amped.
Track two is one of the many acoustic and vocal songs on the album. The Who has two members left so hearing the amount of songs that are just the two of them is heartbreakingly great. "Man in a Purple Dress" is the first of these. Pete backlashes to the religious community for all the terrible things that organized religion has done. Here is a clip from Letterman of Pete and Roger performing the song. It's one of the highlights of the album and of the live concerts they have been on tour for.
"Mike Post Theme" kicks into gear with a little more power behind it than "Fragments." Pete's acoustic guitar parts on this album stand far and away ahead from his electric work on the album but this song is a moment where the two sounds intermingle quite well. And a great line "Emotionally we're not even old enough" is great from a 60+ year old man. The innocence of the Who is still there. The song flows back and forth from fury to a little more relaxed acoustic sound that is one of the highlights of the first half of the disc.
"In the Ether" is strange. To this point of listening, I don't know if its Pete Townshend or Tom Waits singing. It sounds like a typical Tom Waits track, but it's the Who. I don't know if I love it or not, but it is totally unlike any Who song I've ever heard. I guess they are trying to show their maturity on this album as well. It seriously sounds like its off of late 70's Tom Waits. Weird but good.
"Black Widow's Eyes" is another song that has a mixture of the superior acoustic sound and basic electric guitar parts. It might be the lowest point on the album. Nothing really sparking interest in this song for me. It's still a good song, but it sounds like other songs from the past and isn't as inspiring as what is to come on the rest of the album.
Thankfully, after a song like "Black Widow's Eyes", it is followed by the beautiful "Two Thousand Years" with strings done by Pete himself, harmonies between Roger and Pete and a very insipring uplifting feel to the entire song. The lyrics aren't anything special, but it's the music that really sucks you in. Mandolin and strings intertwining in pure musical bliss.
"God Speaks, of Marty Roberts" is Pete and the acoustic. Part of me wishes this album was just acoustic songs because these songs are so beautiful. Its almost as if when the full band aren't there (who are amazingly talented, dont get me wrong) the best songs are produced. Pete sings just as he did years ago on this one. His ageless voice shines on this one.
"It's Not Enough" is a decent song, but feels almost as if they were trying to force a single on this one. With a little more time to work on some sweet guitar solos or something, this song could soar as one of the Who's best rockers. In hindsightm this song will probably land around most of the other 80's songs that just have that missing element that Keith and The Ox would add to it. It needs more power behind it.
"You Stand By Me" is yet another Pete and Acoustic song. This quicky song not even 2 minutes long ranks up with "Sunrise" and "OurLove Was" as one of the Who's best love songs. Quick and to the point. I wonder if I'll use this as wedding vows someday....
And thus returns the Who we love in the form of the Wire and Glass mini-opera.
It kicks off with "Sound Round" which starts with a fury of drums that makes you turn your head and wonder if Moony is back. When the chorus comes in the bass also kicks in for the first time taking over the songs on the entire album making you question if the Ox is right there. The song i yet another short one but kicks you in the gut the way hearing "I Can See For Miles" did the first time you heard it.
It quickly shifts into another fast-paced power rocker "Pick Up The Peace" that is reminiscent of Quadrophenia's "I've Had Enough" or "Helpless Dancer" and even hints of Tommy here and there in yet another short quicky song. It seems that the shorther songs on this album have the best power behind them.
My personal favorite song of the opera, "Unholy Trinity" is a piano and mandolin song is an ode to the ideals of Mehar Baba, the guru that inspired Pete's musical being. The song quickly shifts into "Trilby's Piano" which is another beautifully arranged song (by Pete) with sweepingly subtle piano and very great strings in the background for the pretty secition of the opera.
Then back to the Who kicking it out. "Endless Wire" reminisces to some of the songs cut from the Lifehouse project (Who's Next for you beginners). This is the point where you feel as if this whole rock opera is some sort of amalgamation of the Who's entire career.
"Fragments of Fragments" is exactly what it states. It's a shorter version of the first track. Meh.
"We've Got a Hit" revists that old 60's feel good song and should ahve followed "Endless Wire." A quicky rocker that reminds us of the Who in their Mod roots.
"They Made My Dream Come True" is another of the lower end songs on the album along with "Fragments of Fragments" and "Black Widow's Eyes". It seems like these songs could ahe been cut.
"Mirror Door" is an awesome faux live track that shows the Who paying homage to all things music. From Bobby Darin to Ludwig Van to Eddie Cochran get the nod. It's an amazing finale to the Wire and Glass opera. A thank you to all things music done by the Who. It goes to prove that it doesn't matter the music that gets to your heart, its all the same in the end. Its somethign that brings pure joy to the hearts of anyone and its what the Who loves to do.
Then the Who decides to kick me in the face with the saddest and frankly one of their all-time best songs at the end of the album. "Tea and Theater" is heartbreaking. It's basically Pete and Roger thinking back to the days of glory in their old age, but still writing comparable amazing lyrics in this song. Love it.
So overall. The album since I first listened to me has grown on me. The best description I can think of the album is the title of this blog and much like the song "Mike Post Theme". It jumps back and forth from rockers to more light and simpler songs. The simple songs are the best moments on the album. The rockers are good, but sometimes feel like they are missing something--which is obviously the ghosts of the past that haunt the Who here and there on the album. I say, if you like the Who at all, get this album. It's the best work since most of the songs on Who Are You and has some moments that are even some of the best songs written by Pete and performed by the new Who. Some people say they shouldn't be called the Who, but as this album has definitely proved, the Who is Pete Townshend. He commands the lyrics and arrangements and thankfully he does.