In today’s musical landscape, bedazzled, pants-less pop-stars are a dime a dozen, but rock has been on the decline since the 2000s. Enter the Foo Fighters – who knew that the rockingest album in a long while would be released by a bunch of dads in their 40s? (When performing on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart remarked that backstage looked like “romper room” because of all the toddlers in tow with the band running around).
In addition to being one of the coolest, most laidback guys, Dave Grohl is an electric frontman, as evidenced about twenty seconds into their latest album, Wasting Light, when he launches out opener “Bridge Burning” by screaming “These are my famous last words!” over a thrashing guitar line. It’s an amazing track, simultaneously tight and raw. There’s an obvious sense of musicianship, too, with harmonies that owe debt to one of Grohl’s avowed favorite bands, Queen.
With a well-chosen opener that announces the Foos as a raucous, rioting band, Wasting Light keeps piling on the hits. “Rope” is the lead single of the disc, and it thrives on its jittery flashes of guitar and Grohl switching between yowling and rafter-reaching choruses. This must be spectacular live as well.
This album was recorded in analog in Dave Grohl’s basement as a harkening back to classic rock acts, and the purity of the sound quality is evident. Plus, this is the first appearance of Krist Noveselic on bass since he and Grohl played together in Nirvana way back when. It’s amazing to think that the Foos have been together since 1994, and this disc hits a new peak that their last couple of albums missed (2005’s overlong double-disc In Your Honor and 2007’s forgotten Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace).
One of the Foo’s strengths is that they can modulate their bone-cracking rockers with more lovelorn cuts as well (“Everlong” is perhaps one of the most masculine yet tender ballads ever recorded). Here, that torch is carried by “Dear Rosemary” and, to an extent, “These Days.” There’s a pop quality to “Rosemary,” but it still digs its teeth into you with punky drums and soaring harmonies. Meanwhile, “Days” has a restrained, almost country tinge to it, and the analog makes everything sound incredibly crisp. Penultimate cut “I Should Have Known” is gorgeous, lamenting heartbreak and somehow sounding absolutely masculine as Grohl wails, “I can’t forgive you yet.”
“Arlandia,” one of the songs played on their Daily Show appearance, is made for live venues, though it translates pretty great on disc. Coiled tight at its intro with staircases of guitar riffs, the track positively explodes about a minute in, dense with electric metal and the strangely lovely growl of Grohl’s voice.
In an era when albums are often just vehicles for top-charting singles, Wasting Light is a disc that begs you to listen to it all the way through, and it’s no real chore when things are this upbeat and anthemic. There’s no real shift in the Foo Fighters’ sound, but really, it’s not necessary when the material here is this fleshed-out and rich. The beats are dense and masculine, but the harmonies and Grohl’s lyrics inject this testosterone-bash with a hint of the heartfelt. For those about to rock, Wasting Light will help you do so – it’s their best offering since 1999’s There Is Nothing Left To Lose. And check the Foos out live if you can, it’s bound to be an amazing show.
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