It seems perverse crediting a new album to the Who, but who is the Who, anyway? Twenty-eight years since the death of drummer Keith Moon, and four since that of bassist John Entwistle, the Who has been reassessed as what it often already was: the vehicle for cantankerous singer/songwriter/guitarist Pete Townshend. Endless Wire, 24 years after the last Who album, is an almost undiluted example of Townshend's doubts-pocked ballads and theatrics-fraught rockers, now only gingerly tempered by singer Roger Daltrey.
Surprisingly, all the Who's tropes appear more tender, falling just short of Moon's percussion levity and Entwistle's leavening. In place of unfettered enthusiasm are some things — the awkward commercial/religious commentary and cliff-top bellows chorus — that needed to die before they got old yet didn't. However, the second half's cycle of nine mini-songs, dubbed "Wire & Glass," is a surprisingly textured concept properly encapsulating the "new" Who's melody and mettle. 3 stars
?The Who plays the Arena at Gwinnett Center Wed., Nov. 22, with the Pretenders.