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The Who - Endless Wire CD (album) cover

ENDLESS WIRE

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

2.88 | 84 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Endless Wire' - The Who (5/10)

Back when The Who and the rest of the British '60s rock scene was getting started, it was not uncommon for bands to release albums within months of each other, keeping the output of music fairly steady and flowing. As the years have gone on, this interval has widened, now to the point where it is sometimes several years between albums for working artists. But even still, a twenty-four year wait between releases is a pretty shocking figure for a band to go without releasing new material, and this was the case with The Who when they released their last album 'Endless Wire'. Since 1982 with 'It's Hard', The Who had not come out with anything, and since then, their bassist John Entwhistle had passed away, and the band had only been together intermittently. When 'Endless Wire' and a reunion tour came out then, there was alot of hype around the matter, but the album that fans had been waiting for more over two decades didn't manage to reach the level of their earlier work by any stretch. While not holding a candle in comparison to the albums The Who made when they were still a full band, Daltrey and Townshend can still be given props for attempting something ambitious, even if it is only partially successful.

The album is divided into two parts; the first half being comprised of single songs, and the latter half being composed of a mini-rock opera that was arranged into a stage musical. Musically, 'Endless Wire' is similar in style to the music of the band made on 'By Numbers'; rocking tunes that have some focus on acoustic guitars and somewhat angry lyrics courtesy of Townshend. A very notable change however is that unlike The Who's earlier material which featured a nice balance between all instruments, the mixing favours the guitars and Daltrey's vocals over anything else, almost to a fault. Naturally, this is due to Keith Moon and John Entwhistle no longer being with the band for obvious reasons, but from a musical perspective, it may have been nice to hear some more bass and drum during the rock sections, especially considering the great talent of bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Zak Starkey (the son of Ringo Starr), who both held the torch brilliantly in live concert.

Overall, the album feels like a lot of unfulfilled musical ideas and songs that could have been much better if The Who had only fleshed them out enough. Instead, 'Endless Wire' is composed mostly of very short musical observations that flow somewhat roughly together. The best material that 'Endless Wire' has to offer is in the acoustic tracks, which work quite well in their short-form. 'Stand By Me' is a lovely piece of songwriting', and 'Man In The Purple Dress' is an angry acoustic song that shows that the band hasn't lost too much of their grit over the years. While the somewhat half-baked attempt at a mini-rock opera is certainly ambitious enough, the most impressive thing that The Who offer here is the arrangement of some of the music. Many of these songs feature banjos and added guitar textures that show the maturation of the band's work. 'Trilby's Piano'- for however short it may be- is quite possibly the greatest thing that the album has to offer, featuring a string section, pianos, and the most beautiful vocal performance the album. Besides that, these tracks feel like the band was trying to cover far too much ground, without ever stopping for a moment and letting these tracks breathe.

An interesting observation from The Who in any case, but it is a disappointing one, considering how great the album could have been if they had only developed the record a little more.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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