FOO FIGHTERS – Wasting Light (2011 Roswell Records)
The much anticipated new Foo Fighters album was a big deal to us fans — for the first time, a five-man lineup, three guitar players, and the return of Pat Smear. In other words this album has the same lineup as the glorious Colour and the Shape era of the band, plus Chris Shifflet. Add on expert production by Butch Vig, mixing by Alan Moulder. It sounds glorious! What it lacks in the diversity from the previous two albums, it makes up with the sheer youthful energy from the first two.
Wasting Light hits you right away with the one-two punch of “Bridge Burning” and “Rope”, fast jagged hard rock songs with riffs and Grohl screams. Not totally immediate, but they set the stage for some of the best tunage the Foos have ever laid to wax.
The dark and powerful “Dear Rosemary” is the first bonafide classic on this album, and you can definitely hear the benefit of the three guitars as rhythm & catchy licks merge into one moving whole. “Dear Rosemary”, features Bob Mould (Husker Du) sharing lead vocal duties. What an incredible song. It was a bit of genius inspiration, working with Mould on it. The result is an instant classic, one of the best Foo tunes in the canon. (A Foo-Du tune?)
“White Limo” starts with a brutally heavy metal riff, something that harkens back to Voivod, with Grohl doing his best distorted metal screams overtop. This is primo thrash metal, a total surprise for me. I always knew Grohl was a metalhead, but I didn’t expect anything this overtly metal to appear on a Foo Fighters album. But it’s a welcome change, and my current favourite song for pure adrenaline pumping energy.
“Arlandria” starts slower, but builds to a melodic, dramatic chorus with crashing chords and cymbals. By this time the album has begun to take shape: It has melody but the foundation is the guitar riffage. “These Days” is a total change of pace, a much softer song, but still propelled forward by the beats of Taylor Hawkins, and of course the guitars still crash come chorus time.
“Back and Forth” has a pretty crummy snare drum sound, but Nate Mendel’s bass rings clear and true underneath. It takes a while to get going, but the chorus is still solid. “A Matter of Time” is the weakest song so far, an awkward, jagged non-standout rocker.
“Miss the Misery” is a return to form, starting with a brief “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” drone before settling into an i irresistible set of melodies, punctuated by catchy guitar licks buzzing in and out of the mix. Again, you can hear where three guitar players is coming in handy, as there is a lot going on here guitar-wise. Fee Waybill on guest vocals! Next, Nirvana fans will be excited by an appearance by Krist Novoselic on “I Should Have Known”. Including Pat Smear, this is a reunion of the three surviving members of the final Nirvana lineup, a little mini-historic event in the annals of rock. It is a slow mournful song, with Grohl’s voice back in the mix, singing “I cannot forgive you yet”. It is a beautiful song, and a welcome change of pace. Novoselic’s bass, when it kicks in about halfway, just rumbles. It ends as dramatically as anything else on the album.
The standard edition of the album closes with a song called “Walk”. This is a brighter song, guitars chiming and ringing, and exactly the way an album like this needs to end. But suddenly the pace picks up, and the guitars cascade like the greatest Foo songs of old. This one reminds me, for a number of reasons including riffs, melody and pacing, of “New Way Home”, the awesome closer from Colour and the Shape.
The Foos have created another fine album, not an easy thing to do when you have albums like Colour and the Shape and In Your Honor under your collective belts. They certainly have lost nothing to age, and they have not exhausted their energies. I also think that, after two very diverse albums, it was exactly the right move to return to a predominantly rock direction for this album. It re-grounds the bands back to their roots.
It’s not over yet though, as the iTunes and Japanese editions of the album have bonus tracks. iTunes have an absolutely useless remix of “Rope” by Deadmau5. I guess people who like this kind of music will appreciate it, but it has no place on an album like this. It is monotonous and boring, a waste of five minutes of my time. Much more appropriate is another song called “Better Off”. “Better Off” is almost Beatles-y in melody, but with heavy layered guitars pummeling your ears. I love the lyrics as well — “You know you’re better off, you bastard!”
Wasting Light has been a great and pleasant surprise to me. I wasn’t sure what direction the Foo Fighters were going to take with this record, but I’m pleased that they took a step back to guitar-based basics, yet still retained all the lessons they learned about melody, songwriting and arranging.
BONUS! Just to do something special and unique, and to make a point about recording this album straight to analog tape (no computers!), Dave Grohl has sliced up his original master tape for Wasting Light, and included a piece inside the first run of the CD. Cool, man. Worth hunting down a first pressing for, if you care about such things!