Pete Townshend asks his loyal followers not to expect a Who comeback from Endless Wire, The Who’s first studio album in 25 years, but instead promises something entirely different from “the Two,” as the surviving original band members (Townshend and Roger Daltrey) have come to be known.
But in fact, watered down Who classics are exactly what we get. The spirituality of Townshend’s lyrics comes off as weak and dispassionate, perhaps because singer Daltry’s heart is just not it. Or maybe it’s the lack of Keith Moon’s cacophony and John Entwistle’s sophisticated bass lines that makes these songs such thin ballads, defined by that depressing tendency for classic rock bands to hang on too long.
That said, the album gets continuously better as it goes, as if the Two needed to warm up to this new arrangement, but then didn’t have the heart to scrap the practice songs. And on the second half of the album—which consists of songs from Townshend’s new rock opera “Wire and Glass“—the music is powerful and interesting, sounding like, well, the Who came out with a new album.