Album Review: Foo Fighters
Album: Wasting Light
Label: RCA Records
Foo Fighters, despite their stadium-rock popularity, have never been a band I have loved. They have never, unlike Dave Grohl’s previous exploits in Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age, been a band that has resonated with me on a level other than a bit of superficial fun. They have always been a singles band, perfectly suited to the click-and-get nature of the iTunes generation. But I admit: Wasting Light hasn’t left my ear canals since my first listen.
Maybe it’s no surprise that this is the most genuine album the band have put out since the much-lauded early-years material. In an effort to get back in touch with their roots, recording took place in Dave Grohl’s garage studio (which I’m willing to bet is still a million times better than your run-of-the-mill set up, but I’ll let that slide), there are guest spots from Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic — which, in all honesty, come across as PR boxes to tick than notable performances — and Grohl himself admitted that it was time for Foo Fighters to “be a rock band again”.
It’s a wise sentiment. In recent years the band’s incredible success has seen them fill stadiums, albeit with some material that Bon Jovi would have been happy to put his stamp of approval on. Dave Grohl’s ‘the nicest man in rock’ tag is well deserved, but I don’t think it’s too unfair to say that the man — and the band — have been in desperate need to grow some balls as of late.
Well, Wasting Light is a genuine, and thankful, improvement. There’s an undeniable crunch to everything that hints at a band rediscovering a rawer edge, as if stripping back years of polish to find a rusty foundation underneath. For the most part, gone are those echoes of ‘Everlong’ that so riddled the past few Foo Fighters’ albums, replaced with a more rapid tempo, and Grohl rediscovering his iconic growl.
‘Bridge Burning’ is the band jump-starting the engine, a typical Foos single that combines all the facets the band has assimilated in its 16 year history. Heavy, but no less catchy guitar hook? Check. Grohl singing like he’s practicing for the next Wembley show? Check. And a rousing final minute to quicken the pulse and leave a sugary buzz in the head? Well, that’s just a given.
The highlight is penultimate track ‘I Should Have Known’. As mentioned above, Foos dalliances with acoustic, heart rendering ballads may have found an appreciative audience, but to me they have always been weak and to the detriment of the band. But, despite the opening violin flutters and scaled back tone, ‘I Should Have Known’ is an emotionally-laden ballad done right — actually building to something more than the typical Foos structure of verse, chorus, verse chorus and snore.
Wasting Light isn’t groundbreaking stuff. If anything, it succeeds in its mission to become a throwback to the origins of the Foos. Whether that’s a damning indictment of what the band has been up to in recent years or not is up to the listener at the end of the day. Wasting Light is a good rock record that proves that, somewhere deep inside his soul, Dave Grohl wishes he was still a total unknown, sweating in front of three people in a pokey, basement venue. Those days are long gone, but this is a notable step in the right direction.