Just when you thought Foo Fighters were fading from relevance, they go and drop a surprise like Wasting Light on us.
This isn’t to say the past three albums have been awful; on the contrary, they’ve allowed the Foo’s to stretch out and move into the stadium-sized classic rock territory you suspect Dave Grohl has always wanted to have a stab at. The downside of a band moving into that area is as the songs get bigger they lose a little bit of fun with every passing second; the playful nature and raw D-I-Y sounds get replaced by something far more polished and safe (See ‘Wheels’ and ‘Word Forward’). In light of this, it’s refreshing to hear the Foo’s doing nothing more than simply rocking out on Wasting Light.
Fortunately, they hardly fall into the trap of using big slabs of power chords as a Plan A of rocking out either. Gone are the monolithic entities like ‘Best Of You’ which championed power through simplicity, replaced by songs with nuances; riffs, lead parts, tempo changes, prominent strings. In other words, nothing sounds safe. Foo Fighters’ willingness to try anything on Wasting Light leaves them open to failure which appears to be a challenge the band seem ready to take on. Taylor Hawkins manages to pull-off the best Neil Peart imitation this side of Moving Pictures with his fills and choruses on ‘Rope’, the interplay between the instruments on the aforementioned song is something to behold, especially for Foo Fighters. ‘White Limo’ is a nod to the bands influences which works far better than it would on paper and ‘Bridge Burning’ is a continuation of punk making a return to the Foo’s sound, albeit with a big dose of epic added in for good measure.
Giving a guest slot to Krist Novoselic could’ve been the downfall of Wasting Light, his distinctive distorted bass tones threatening to derail ‘I Should Have Known’ into nothing more than a sub-par Nirvana throwback. The result of his playing is quite the opposite, elevating ‘I Should Have Known’ to incredible heights, the kind of heights that indicate it may just be the greatest song Dave Grohl has ever put together; It’s introspective lyrics give way to a stirring finale that nothing else in the bands back catalogue can really claim to be close to.
Given their status, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Wasting Light had been a by-numbers affair for Foo Fighters. Instead, it’s a refreshing step forward for a band not quite ready to age gracefully. Musically speaking its above most of their previous works, especially in the technicality stakes, and the lyrics are some of the best Grohl has written. It could well be their career album, and if it ends up not being so, I can’t wait to hear what else they have in store for us.