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The Who

Endless Wire

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.

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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.