It's been 24 years since The Who put out their last new album. Now the British rock band, or at least its surviving members, are releasing a CD.

(Soundbite of song, “My Generation”)

Mr. ROGER DALTREY (Musician): (Singing) I hope I die before I get old.

The WHO: (Singing) Talkin' about my generation.

CHADWICK: Guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend and lead singer Roger Daltrey have put together an album called Endless Wire. Music critic Christian Bordal has a review.

CHRISTIAN BORDAL: The cliché about rock and roll is that it's all driven by the rebellious energy of angry, young boys. But if ever there was a rock band that really lived that cliché, it was The Who.

(Soundbite of song “Sound Round”)

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) Sound round feel the ground. Feel the pulse that we have found.

BORDAL: Forty years ago, The Who raised the bar on rock and roll bad behavior. They were the first to smash and blow up their instruments on stage, first to destroy their hotel rooms, first to create stacks of amps that made them the loudest rock band in the world.

(Soundbite of song “God Speaks of Marty Robbins”)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Wake up and hear the music. Wake up and hear what the people say.

BORDAL: Wild-man drummer Keith Moon OD'd in 1978. Bass player John Entwistle died of a heart attack in a Vegas hotel on the eve of yet another comeback tour in 2002. But now, almost a quarter of a century since their last last album, Roger Daltrey is once again singing new songs written by Pete Townshend. In fact, in the liner notes Daltrey writes: Just like Olivier and Gielgud strove to connect the audience with Shakespeare, I strive to connect the listener with the soul of Pete Townshend's music.

Well the results, like most Who records, are uneven. The album has plenty of recognizable, updated Who moments - these synth sounds, for example.

(Soundbite of synthesizer)

BORDAL: Sound familiar? They're reconstituted from the 1971 Who hit Baba O'Reilly for use on the opening track called Fragments.

(Soundbite of song “Fragments”)

The WHO: (Singing) Are we breathing out or breathing in? Are we leaving life or moving in? Are we breathing out or breathing in? Are we breathing in?

BORDAL: Pete Townshend is famous for his rock operas like Tommy and Quadrophenia, and the second half of the new CD is devoted to a new mini-rock opera called Wire & Glass. It's based on a nostalgic novel he wrote about an aging ‘60s rock-and-roller in a sanatorium watching some young kids form a band and put out their first hit song.

(Soundbite of song “We Got A Hit”)

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) We got our folks together. We both found barriers. We found a dream to dream. We were the carriers.

BORDAL: There's a DVD of a recent live show included with the first release of this Who record, but Daltrey and Townshend are now in their early 60s, and watching them soldier through classic hits like I Can't Explain and Won't Get Fooled Again makes me feel both fascinated and a little queasy.

(Soundbite of song “We Got A Hit”)

The WHO: (Singing) Good news, we got a hit.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) We got a hit.

The WHO: (Singing) Good news, we got a hit.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) Good news.

BORDAL: It's impossible not to measure the old Who against the old Who. Daltrey sometimes looks like he's about to have an aneurism trying to reach the high notes, and Townshend's windmill's not quite as windmill-ey. The wild animal bombast of the band's youth is gone and what you're left with is Townshend's writing which, though it still has its occasional hard-rock bite, is now laced with more acoustic guitars and introspection. But it's his unique flashes of brilliance that are the one dependable element still remaining of the amazing band called The Who.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) Three kids from the neighborhood. Three different lives.

CHADWICK: The Who's latest CD is called Endless Wire. Music critic Christian Bordal comes to us through member station KCRW in Los Angeles. And you can hear entire songs from the new Who album at our Web site,

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