By Joseph Marshall
In 2009, Foo Fighters released a compilation of their greatest hits. Sometimes this can be taken as an omen that a group are about to disband. So, now that they’ve emerged with their seventh studio album – a collection of hard-rocking jams – to commercial success worldwide; many will be asking themselves if the Dave Grohl led outfit have really still got it…
Wasting Light kicks off with ‘Bridge Burning’; a fresh and highly palatable thrill ride, it’s as if they’ve captured the political Zeitgeist. Listening to the lyrics, there’s an unshakable feeling that this rip-roaring, melodic stampede is an anthem for the protests and overthrow of dictatorships in the Middle East. You can almost see people in the streets and statues crumbling to rubble as Grohl sombrely croons ‘It’s all coming down / It’s all coming round’.
Most of the tracks feature a classic Foo Fighters key change, something which leads you down one path of expectation, before making a seismic shift and taking you down another, effectively pulling the rug from beneath your feet at the last moment. Looking at the words, save for a line or two, this album is cliché city. You couldn’t really claim it’s a fault though, as the particular choice and order of the clichés drawn upon is an art form in itself. The closing ditty, ‘Walk’, is a stirring and uplifting personal statement, particularly apt at being both lyrically poignant and generic.
Picture Foo Fighters and you probably see five or so long haired individuals, drenched in sweat on stage in a stadium, making the rock sign with their tongues sticking out. There’s a sense that they’re riffing on this stereotype on the track ‘Rosemary’, which features funny backing vocals in an overly zealous, mock English accent . As usual, throughout the record, the frontman’s soft, perhaps even delicate voice, is balanced by a strong capacity to scream. Anyone who remembers The Foo’s 2002 hit, ‘All My Life’, will be familiar with what I’m talking about and how these two vocal stylings are integral to the powerful hooks which made their earlier releases so catchy. But something of the intensity of those previous records is missing here. Although not awful, tracks like ‘One Of These Days’ come off sounding a bit listless and dreary, lacking in energy and attitude.
The deluxe version includes a bonus remix by sometime forum-dwelling techno artist Dead Mau5. The button pusher renowned for wearing a giant mouse head whenever he performs contributes a thumping, high octane, big beat take on ‘Rope’. The other late addition, ‘Better Off’, is a pop-punk piece, heavy handed on the harmonising. Neither add a tremendous deal, so if you’ve already bought the non-deluxe recording then there’s no reason to get this as well.
On ‘I Should Have Known’, Grohl sings the first few lines in the style of Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, who he’s played drums for in the past as he once did Nirvana. There’s a distinctly QOTSA sensibility in ‘White Limo’ too; a frenzy of monstrously distorted vocals and clanging rhythm section. Also, the guitar in the last couple of bars of ‘Arlandria’ is a tantalisingly short-lived piece of Nirvana-esque funky bass, which sadly doesn’t repeat itself. An equally exciting guitar pattern can be found on ‘A Matter of Time’, where the drums briefly change tack, accommodating a more off kilter style of play. Sadly, moments of inventiveness such as these are few and far between.
You couldn’t accuse the Foo Fighters of setting out to be innovative and failing, because Dave Grohl himself has made no bones about the fact that their music consists of ‘loud rock guitars…cymbals crashing’ and ‘big ass drums’ – the kind of thing that’s played almost exclusively on American radio stations. Yet what’s really lacking on Wasting Light is the sublime melodic beauty of albums like their catchy classic ‘One by One’. Something elusively majestic about those tunes just isn’t present here, meaning these compositions don’t make the same lasting impact as their predecessors.
7 OUT OF 10