By Tony Buchsbaum
It’s been 24 years, and The Who is back. Sort of. With the release of the new CD Endless Wire, it might be fair to say that the band should have used the name Who’s Missing, because present here are only Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. Listening, I kept wishing Daltrey’s voice has held up as well as Townshend’s boundless talent, his bottomless well of ideas.
That said, Endless Wire is a real showcase. It features some incredible songwriting, more of Townshend-as-singer than earlier albums, and a mini-opera, to boot.
And that’s the real draw here. Wire & Glass is about an aging, sanitarium-bound rock star (Ray High) who's visions of a band comprised of two young men (Moslem and Jewish) and one woman (Christian). (This was excerpted from a blog created at the end of last year called "The Boy Who Heard Music.") Pretentious? Could be. But in the end, all that matters is that this is great stuff, if no “Tommy.”
In addition, the disc boasts a few acoustic songs that feature Townshend and Daltrey doing just what they know how to do—and do so well.
For anyone expecting more of the present-day touring band, they appear only intermittently, on the most Who-sounding songs on the disc. Elsewhere, Townshend plays piano, bass (!), drums (!!), and strings (!!!), and handles some of the orchestration.
The package comes in a CD-only version, but the one you want also features a DVD of live footage shot in Lyon.
If anything, Endless Wire is not as much of a Who album as it is a super-deluxe, very well-staffed Townshend solo album. But of course, even that’s rare enough to be considered a gift from a rock and roll god.