Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pete Townshend is Endlessly Wired...Into Great Songwriting

There's a lot on this album that could barely even be construed as Rock, much less hard rock. And the first couple of listens turned me off, as both Daltrey and Townshend are very much showing their age vocally. On the third listen, some of it started clicking in a big way, and on the fifth I "got" it, and found myself inspired.

This album isn't meant to be stacked next to the monster classics like Who's Next or Tommy, though there are elements of those albums on here. Taken on its own terms, Endless Wire is easily the best Who album since Who Are You, and there are actually songs that stand up with their best: "Trilby's Piano", "Tea and Theater", and the Tom Waits influenced "Into the Ether" being the most obvious. They're the kind of songs that help one understand exactly why Pete Townshend is widely considered one of the top five songwriters in Rock history.

The mini-opera "Wire and Glass" is often interesting, and makes the album even more dynamically engaging. But it's the first, Who By Numbers-esque half I most admire, and that half has quite a dynamic range on its own. Compositional subtleties abound on this album, and as usual the lyrics range from clever to spectacularly insightful and expressive. As a Rock/Metal composer myself, I learned a few important things from both the arrangements and instrumentation. There was so much care taken with this, and yet songs like "Mike Post Theme" and the (unfortunately short) "We've Got a Hit" showcase that the band can belt it with plenty of sincerity and relative simplicity when it's called for.

My original, four out of five star rating reflects the past to an extent, and I regret it already. In light of the mostly reheated garbage that passes for "Rock music" today, this is a 5 star release.