Evolving from an impassioned alt-rock band to one of mainstream rock’s most popular and long-running groups, Foo Fighters
don’t do anything particularly novel on their new record, Wasting Light
, but that doesn’t keep it from being a monstrously tuneful affair. By now, it’s fairly easy to predict frontman Dave Grohl’s sonic approach -- big hooks and openhearted choruses -- but the Foo’s first studio album in four years does represent a tighter, more focused assault than the band’s recent efforts.
Consistent or Generic?
Winners of six Grammy awards, including three Best Rock Album trophies in the span of four discs, Foo Fighters are a beloved industry staple, which is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, Foo Fighters are recognized for their career longevity and hitmaking consistency. On the other hand, though, the band (and Grohl in particular) have been criticized of late for peddling a formulaic, radio-ready brand of rock that doesn’t offer many surprises or innovation. Both sides of the argument have valid points, but while you don’t go to a new Foo record for stunning musical experimentation, you can rely on it for astoundingly steady craftsmanship and catchy tunes.
finds the band working with Butch Vig, who after all these years is still perhaps best known for producing Nevermind
, the groundbreaking album from Grohl’s old band, Nirvana
. But as Vig proved with his work on 21st Century Breakdown
, he’s a guy who knows how to get the most out of a band’s sound, achieving maximum impact without making the album feel superficial or overly polished. Before Wasting Light
was released, Grohl talked about the fact that it was an album without a single acoustic guitar on it, suggesting that the record would hit harder than the more eclectic In Your Honor
and Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
. And while it does have a decent amount of oomph, Wasting Light
won’t make anyone think Grohl’s made another Them Crooked Vultures
-- the 2009 self-titled record from his side project that boasted a grimy hard-rock vibe. Foo Fighters are still making streamlined rock that tackles the ear with an effortless efficiency.
A Powerful Assault
The album may lack the out-of-the-box sing-along single that earlier Foo discs did, but it’s got more than its share of instant crowd-pleasers. “Arlandria” kicks off with some hard-charging guitars before slowing down for the first verse, which then leads to a blowout chorus. In other words, it follows soft-then-loud songwriting principles perfectly, although Grohl and his bandmates’ enthusiasm papers over the predictability. The same goes for “These Days,” which cleverly conveys both sides of a conversation in which one person is trying to cheer up the other, who simply doesn’t want the pep talk. For the first time in more than a decade, guitarist Pat Smear is part of the Foo lineup, and the band’s three-guitar attack creates a powerful assault that’s supple enough to make plenty of room for melody.
Old Dog, Old Tricks
But what keeps Wasting Light
from being truly terrific is the nagging sense of familiarity that hangs over these 11 tracks. Whether it’s Grohl’s sing-then-shriek technique or the way he goes for a punk-rock furor on “White Limo” (complete with heavily distorted vocals), this is an album in which an old dog definitely does not learn new tricks. Rather, Grohl is trying to refine and perfect the tricks he already knows quite well. Lucky for him (and for us), those tricks still have plenty of life left in them. Consequently, Wasting Light
won’t blow your mind, but it is a pleasant reminder of what this band has accomplished over the last 16 years.
'Wasting Light' – Best Tracks:
“These Days” (Purchase/Download
“Miss the Misery” (Purchase/Download
“Bridge Burning” (Purchase/Download
“I Should Have Known” (Purchase/Download
Release date – April 12, 2011