11. Endless Wire (2006)
In 2006, the Who released its first album of new material in 24 years. It'd be nice to deem it worth the wait, but Endless Wire is a jumbled mess and -- clocking in at 19 tracks that last nearly an hour -- it can take on the tedious nature its title suggests. Townshend's grandiose ideas were, as with Tommy and Quadrophenia, based in human struggle and funneled into operatic structure. This time he wasn't as successful.
The opening track, "Fragments," borrows from the synth progressions of one of the band's best works, "Baba O'Riley," but not in a flattering manner. It harkens back to a better day for the aging band and ushers in the rough scene that unfolds throughout the first half of the album. (Tracks 10 and on represent Wire & Glass, a mini-opera. It's stronger than the first half but, still, a far cry from the group's heyday material.) The playing is expectedly tired without Moon and Entwistle as anchors, yet it doesn't feel like a grown-up transition that, say, Robert Plant has made in recent years. (Roger Daltrey's vocals do, though, carry a weathered, knowing heft in spots, as on "Mike Post Theme"). Townshend's vocals on "In the Ether" are nearly unlistenable and one wishes that he could've better channeled his chagrin following 2003's child pornography scandal.