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Review: Foo Fighters—Wasting Light

Dave Grohl has a problem – let’s call it Tom Petty Syndrome. He’s been so consistently good for so long, that no one really appreciates just how strong his work with the Foo Fighters has been.

Over the past 16 years, they’ve given us countless hit radio singles—“Monkey Wrench,” “My Hero,” and “Learn To Fly” ranking among the best. Unfortunately, they still haven’t been able to shed their reputation as a band that is always good, but never great.

That notion should change with Wasting Light, their eighth studio album and easily their best. This is the loudest, sharpest, most vital album the Foos have ever recorded. The ceremonies begin with “Bridge Burning,” a blistering mix of hard rock and punk that illustrates the influence bands like Husker Du have had on Grohl’s music.

Their first single “Rope” shares the accessibility of previous Foos singles, but has a rawness that has been sorely missed from the band’s sound. On past angry numbers like “Best of You,” and “The Pretender,” Grohl’s screaming vocals, while genuine, always seemed a bit reigned in. Here, he truly lets it all out.

The aggressive tone continues throughout the album. “White Limo” sounds like a slightly less frenzied version of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings,” while “Arlandria” harkens back to the radio-friendly rage of 1997’s The Color And The Shape.

On the latter track, Grohl rallies against his fame and rock star notoriety. This can easily be seen as a theme of the entire album. Dave Grohl, mainstream rocker has been replaced by Dave Grohl, angry, rebellious punk rocker.

Grohl’s experience playing with John Paul Jones and Josh Homme in the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures (who made one of 2009’s best albums) seems to have inspired him a big way. After years of aiming squarely for mainstream radio audiences, Grohl isn’t rocking out for anyone other than himself and his band on this album. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

The return of original guitarist Pat Smear is also a large reason for the increased energy of this record. Smear, who has previously played with the Germs, brings the punk attitude and rebelliousnss that was missing from albums like 2002’s One by One and 2007’s Echoes, Silence Patience, and Grace. The music features an edge that hasn’t been around since the Foos’ mid-1990s beginnings.

Of course, if the album was all anger and blistering guitars, things would get a bit boring. That’s why numbers like the mellower, power-pop based “These Days,” and the heavy-hitting power ballad “I Should Have Known” are so refreshing. They offer listeners a brief respite from all the incendiary rage, and remind us that Grohl is equally capable of engaging his sensitive side.

With this album, the perception that the Foo Fighters can’t make a truly great album should end once and for all. This is the best mainstream rock record of 2011 so far, and shows that the Foos are just as capable at being an album band as that they are at being a singles band. It’s a welcome addition to their legacy.

—john hugar

  • John

    The younger generations (I say this as a 53 year old who still listens to all forms of music new and older)insistance that the Foo Fighters are some kind of amazing ground breaking band is simply not, in my opinion, true. Rather they are one of the most successful older bands competing in a musical world dominated by mostly untalented or marginally talented contestants that emigrate from the American idol and the like.
    The only thing “punk’ about the Foo’s is the lack of guitar solo’s in the music. Other than that the modern versions of so called “punk” (ie Green Day)have nothing in common with the true sound and ideology of punk.(there was only one Roman Empire and there was only one punk era, and it has never been recreated by any of the newer bands in this era)
    As for the supergroup tag on Them Crooked Vultures…this record was nothing more than a second version of Queens of the Stone Age, but with drums loud enough to drown out the rest of the band.
    The Foo’s are a good band of their time, but when put up against the history of music and bands that have dominated rock music since its inception….they are quite ordinary….

  • Mark

    John seems to be a very astute music fan, appreciator and historian – there aren’t many of you out there (thank you). I am younger than you (38), but as a rock musician of 23+ years, have a perspective and appreciation all my own. Foo’s are not the Stones, not The Who, not CCR, or Tom Petty (don’t agree with that analogy anyway). They are not a punk band, but are influenced by the greats – and pay tribute to this genre in every album. They are rockers through and through, probably more consistent rockers than any band in history. They play in a different era – They don’t have to fight against “the Man” like other bands before them and thusly forfitted any “bad boy” image that was a birth right to most rock bands in the 60’s and 70’s. Dave and the Foo’s were widely accepted from the beginning – he is viewed as a continuation of the Nirvana legacy… he kept the flame going. People root for him and like him as a person b/c he is considered a “nice guy” and is far, far, far from being considered a heart throb/sex symbol, which helped bands like Led Zeppelin, Stones etc…What makes a band great? It’s very subjective, but there ARE some standards. Name recognition? Check. Multiple platnum albums? Check – 5 to be specific (‘Wasting’ will certainly be 6). Success in the charts? Check. International fame? Check – they are arguably bigger over seas than in the USA. Thy sold out Wembly Stadium. Great songs? IMO, HELL YES!!!! Album after album strong, memorable songs that connect with me on a very fundamental level. There’s a rule when it comes to bands… the longer ago they broke up, the better they were. When I’m an old man and in a home, I bet they will go down as one of the best.

  • old people are old

    Uhhggg! Grohl said when he started this band for fun, I want to do a big arena rock band thing. That is what they have done with a great sense of humor, without all the heavy crap of nirvana, how can you give them shit, their fun and fun to turn up really frucking loud in the car!