CD Review: Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

CD Review: Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
RCA Records
All Access Review: A-

Aside from the bizarrely theatrical exorcism Nicki Minaj’s performed in debuting the song “Roman Holiday” to a quizzical national TV audience that still hasn’t quite figured out what in the world it was watching, the 2012 Grammys were memorable for three things: Adele, Paul McCartney’s extravagant closing number, and the Foo Fighters’ total and complete dominance in any category that had anything to do with rock music. And wouldn’t you know it? For once, the Grammys … well, they got it right.
Released almost a year ago, Wasting Light, the Fighters’ triumphant seventh studio album, finds Dave Grohl and company perfecting their tried-and-true formula of balancing big-hearted emotions with crashing, screaming, hook-filled hard rock that’s as therapeutic as burning an ex-lover’s mementos in a blazing bonfire. But, why is now the right time to reassess an album that’s been dissected and probed thousands of times by now? Four Grammys – that’s why. Well, that and perhaps it’s time to see if Wasting Light can provide any clues as to just where the Foo Fighters go from here and whether they now deserve a place at the table with rock’s greatest luminaries.  
As for the back story to Wasting Light, it was purported to be a throwback, an analog answer to today’s more artificial musical output, hatched with Pro Tools and other digital cleansers. And in many ways, Wasting Light does turn back the clock. Recorded in Grohl’s Encino, California garage using nothing but analog equipment Wasting Light was produced by none other than Butch Vig, who, of course, shepherded Nirvana’s legendary Nevermind album to immortality. One of Grohl’s old bandmates Krist Novoselic also showed up during the Wasting Light sessions to help out – playing bass and accordion – on “I Should Have Known,” and for the dramatically wistful “Dear Rosemary,” Grohl enlisted the assistance of punk hero Bob Mould to bomb away on guitar and lend his grizzled voice to a powerful duet. With the exception of Vig’s propensity for clean production and mushrooming volume and the grizzled character Mould’s vocals add to “Dear Rosemary,” none of that really mattered. In the end, it was the Fighters’ insistence on a return to a warts-and-all recording approach that favors furious energy and primal band chemistry above antiseptic, bloodless production that brought Wasting Light to a rolling boil. Of course, Grohl has had a lot to say lately about how the recording industry’s emphasis on digitally washing every song to a gleaming, spotless shine is killing music, and he’s probably spot-on about that.
Though there’s nothing on Wasting Light that approaches the awe-inspiring majesty of the gathering storm that is “Everlong,” without a doubt the most artfully arranged and affecting song in the Foo Fighters’ catalog, tracks like “Arlandria” – with its building tension and a chorus full of tricky little hooks – and the angular hit “Rope” – its aggressive stop-start dynamics taking full advantage of the band’s three-guitar attack as Chris Shiflet’s careening leads almost plow through the guard rail – speak to the album’s delicate balancing act of riding barreling grooves, torrential riffs and crashing drums roughshod over, around and through tough, indestructible melodies that refuse to be overwhelmed by any of it. As with “Arlandria,” “A Matter of Time” and “Back & Forth” surge with amplified power and roiling emotions, only to ebb slightly and reveal those gripping melodies that grab hold of your throat and don’t let go. But, as Stephen Thomas Erlewine notes in his review of Wasting Light for, it’s about time that Grohl embraced the hot-wired pace and haunted desert weirdness of Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age – who worked with Grohl on their modern classic LP Songs for the Deaf – and he brings all of it to bear in “White Limo” and “Bridge Burning,” two songs full of horsepower that seethe with rage and practically froth at the mouth.
Top to bottom, Wasting Light is the Foo Fighters’ most consistent album. Whereas previous efforts boasted a number of memorable hits and a maddening amount of filler that fluctuated greatly from record to record, Wasting Light is surprisingly free of waste. And if the intention was to capture more of a “live” sound, which it seems like almost every band talks about doing when they’ve hit a plateau somewhere along the way, the Foo Fighters nailed it and in the process, they’ve unleashed an album that can actually be called a “classic.” It’s the record we’ve been waiting for since that eponymous debut way back in 1994 that introduced us to Grohl the songwriter and front man, roles few thought he was capable of playing. Not at all content with growing old gracefully, the Foo Fighters have proven they have plenty of life left in them, provided they focus on bringing intensity and passion to the studio and are not seduced by the siren song of Pro Tools.
What holds them back from being considered among the true giants of rock and roll is a tendency to put blinders on and charge straight ahead into the fray, while also indulging in somewhat predictable quiet-loud-and-then-louder means of song construction. Wasting Light finds the Fighters deviating ever so slightly off the beaten path – the vocals are occasionally a little more dream-like, the dynamics a little more interesting and acrobatic. Having Pat Smear’s bold and loud rhythm guitar back in the fold can’t hurt either. In all likelihood, more of the same is going to come from the Foo Fighters. They’re too far along in their career to drastically change their personality, with Grohl, Shiflet and Smear all coming from a fairly puritanical punk background. Still, if they can find different ways to experiment with tempos and make their sound as thick and intense as possible, while never losing their melodic sensibilities, the Fighters will keep be the band that couldn’t be killed. If they simply fall back on old habits, eventually the world will tire of them.

- Peter Lindblad 

Do you collect Foo Fighters memorabilia? Check out these Foo Fighters posters on eBay!  

No comments:

Post a Comment