Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Review: Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

So a few months ago, on hearing that the Foo Fighters were returning, I took a listen to their 1999 album 'There Is Nothing Left To Lose' and wondered whether they'd ever record a set of songs as strong as that again. 2005's 'In Your Honour' was an overlong double album where they attempted to stretch their occasionally great acoustic moments to make up an entire disc's worth of material, while the heavier songs had a slight feeling of by-numbers. Then came 2008's 'Echoes, Silence, Patience And Grace', which certainly wasn't any better. For years now with every new Foo Fighters album, the promise is always of a return to form, and none of their last few albums have delivered on that promise.

However with 'Wasting Light' the band have made their finest album in years and possibly a career best. The lyrics of the fantastic closing track 'Walk' seem to sum up where this record is coming from.... "I think i lost my way, getting good at starting over every time I return". And now rather than attempting to learn to fly, it seems that they are simply "learning to walk again", in other words getting back to basics and doing what they've always done best, as well as using their past experience to craft some excellent songs. 'Wasting Light' was recorded in Dave Grohl's garage by 'Nevermind' producer Butch Vig, on analogue tape and with guitarist Pat Smear returning to the band full time after many years away.

Now let me tell you this, I heard live versions of these tracks a few months back and they sounded very promising. And after the band streamed the album for free on their website a few weeks ago, I revisited the site many times to hear it again. And after the CD came out last week it has maintained a constant presence in my CD player. Hence why it has taken me over a week after its release to review it.

'Bridge Burning' begins the record in restless style, with an urgent riff and a slowly building opening verse that soon lets rip into the song's fist-raising chorus, an excellent start to the album and one of the all time great opening tracks on a rock album. The single 'Rope' is a beast that sounds like it's being slightly restrained, and this makes for a great tune, with enjoyable double harmonies, a face-melting guitar solo and a big radio-friendly chorus, before 'Dear Rosemary' (with Bob Mould on backing vocals) delivers another huge anthem, with spiky guitar lines and a massive chorus.

Picking up the pace after 'Dear Rosemary' slows things a touch is 'White Limo', a track that represents the heaviest moment on the album and without a doubt the most mental. Once the furious riff embeds itself in your mind it'll drive you crazy every time you hear it, along with Grohl's hair raising screams and Butch Vig's fat production. But even though 'White Limo' sees the group switching to a more hardcore sound, melodies and big radio-friendly rock choruses are all over this record and they are done as well as they possibly could be, by a band who have become the masters at this art.

For example there's 'These Days', where a tender verse grows into a supersized chorus that will please anyone hungry for a massive rock anthem and there's some great guitar work on 'Arlandria', along with another gigantic melody. 'Back And Forth' is probably what you'd class as a typical Foo Fighters song, where warm vocals and a breezy vibe during the verse develop into a chorus that's very catchy, if a little bit throwaway. 'Matter Of Time' is similar, the verse is absolutely brilliant but the bridge and chorus are more no-nonsense fun rather than cleverly constructed, while 'Miss The Misery' is an absolute monster, huge power-rock backing vocals, a massive lumbering riff, an awesome solo and another stadium sized chorus.

'I Should've Known' is the closest this record comes to a ballad, a more accomplished relative of 'Tired Of You' from 'One By One'. Grohl's finest vocal performance yet, soft mellotrons during the calming bridge and lyrics matching the wounded tone of the music, hurt and ready to let rip. And as the pain builds into fury, a huge bassline from Kris Novoselic thunders through the climax of the track, before the album ends with the incredible 'Walk'.

This track is not only a great way to close the group's best album, but in the short time I have lived with it, this has become the group's defining moment. And believe me, it doesn't get much bigger than this. A massive chorus, relentless pounding, the bombast of eighties stadium rock and Grohl sounding like man standing at the top of the world, bellowing "forever, forever, i never wanna die". Stunning.

'Wasting Light' is the Foo Fighters at their very best, their strongest and most consistent set of songs and their defining work.

9/10

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