Album Review: Foo Fighters' 'Wasting Light'
On “Wasting Light,” the Foo Fighters’ seventh studio album, founder Dave Grohl has the sands of time running through his 42-year old mind. And he’d like to make one thing perfectly clear: he’s not going without a fight. The album’s first line, “These are my famous last words: my number’s up,” on the spiky “Bridge Burning” is just the first clarion call. On “These Days,” one of the album’s strongest tracks, he sings, “one of these days, your eyes will close and the pain will disappear.” That may be OK for some, but not so for Grohl, who’s taking his heartbroken, bruised pride self with him kicking and screaming.
Nowhere is that more evident on album closer, “Walk,” where he rails and wails against time, “I’m on my knees, I never want to die, I never want to leave, I never want to say goodbye.”
Out April 12, “Wasting Light” is the band’s first studio album since 2007’s Grammy album of the year nominee “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace,” an effort that many longtime Foo fans didn’t take to but that included the band stretching out a little on tracks like “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners." While "Echoes" had its high points, including terrific track "Long Road To Ruin," "Wasting Light" Is a much more focused, tighter effort.
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As he has on each Foos album before, Grohl manages to tap into some kind of inner rage that comes out in his music, but seems so antithetical to one of the nicest guys in rock. In person, he’s a pussycat, but get him up on stage and he unleashes demons that he manages to keep hidden when he’s walking among us.
Foo Fighters is one of those bands that has an uncanny knack for blending melody with balls-to-the-wall rocking. It’s a tightrope that few acts can successfully negotiate; the Who, one of Grohl’s favorites, comes to mind. They can thrash with the best of them, but there’s rarely the sense that they’re making noise just to be cacophonous. The closest they come here is on the feral “White Limo,” a concrete slab of hardcore metal during which Grohl screams so hard, you’ll get hoarse just from listening to him.
The album, recorded in Grohl’s garage, reunites Grohl with “Nevermind” producer Butch Vig and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, marking the first time the three have recorded together in 20 years. Perhaps Vig’s presence accounts for the unrelenting energy pouring from the tracks that somehow never lose their sense of vulnerability. That’s combo is especially evident in the heartbreaking “I Should Have Known,” in which Grohl simultaneously blames both himself and someone else (perhaps Kurt Cobain). Either way, the devil is still plaguing him as he spews venom at the end, “I cannot forgive you yet.”
Most of the songs here follow a pattern of starting slowly and melodically, before exploding into a shoot-out between Grohl’s ferocious guitar playing, Nate Mendel’s thumping bass and Taylor Hawkins’ remarkably brutal, blistering beating on the drums. (Hawkins’ drumming stands out, perhaps because he always knows his frontman, whom the Washington Post recently called “the best rock drummer alive,” is waiting in the wings.) It all works beautifully, as on first single “Rope.” Oddly, the first verse sounds straight out of a Stone Temple Pilots’ song, but then quickly becomes redolent of “Monkey Wrench.”
Despite all their snarling here, the Foos are beloved not only for their musical chops, but for their approachability. Unlike many alternative bands who rely on maintaining a distance from their fans, the Foo Fighters have always been about breaking down walls instead of putting them up. They’d have us believe there’s absolutely no difference between us and them, but the talent they continually display 17 years into their band life makes us know better.