The Who

Endless Wire (Universal Republic)

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The Who and The Pretenders perform Friday, November 17, at American Airlines Center.
From the gurgling synthesizer riffs a la "Baba O'Riley" that open this disc to the mini-opera (Wire & Glass) that ends it, Endless Wire intimates that it's a classic, if not landmark, Who album. And going up against the formidable challenge of nearly a quarter-century of expectations since the group's last studio recording as well as a mighty legacy, it reiterates The Who's primacy as rock 'n' roll's philosophical fountainhead and musical fulcrum where raw electric power and harmonic beauty meet with still simmering frisson. Pete Townshend remains "In the Ether," as one song is titled, still pondering youth and age, mortality, spirituality and music's eternal heartbeat within his songwriting, and as the voice of those songs, Roger Daltrey sounds as youthfully feisty as ever. Echoes abound of past Who triumphs and Townshend's solo works while drummer Zak Starley (Ringo's son) provides a firm rhythmic foundation while also recalling Keith Moon's distinctive flourishes, but this is so much more than Who redux. With added extended versions of the two catchiest Wire & Glass songs (the title track and "We Got a Hit") and a five-song bonus concert DVD, Live at Lyon, this set has a bounty of riches and depth to make my generation and the others glad that the two surviving members of the original Who neither died before they got old nor lost their spirit and fire.
 
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