Foo Fighters – Wasting Light (2011) – an album review

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light – an album review
By Lee ‘in Limbo’ Edward McIlmoyle

You make perhaps the best album of your career, and promptly put the band on hiatus, to go off and do some high profile super group projects. But while you’re out there playing with Lemmy Kleimister and John Paul Jones, you find you still have things you want to say and do that can only be done in your own band. And then you make the best album of your career. Again. Rock n’ F#$%ing Roll, babies!

tl;dr Version: This album has garnered a bit of attention already, but I like it, so I’ll review it anyway, just in case they need the extra help. *snerk*

‘Splain, Lucy Version: No, seriously, this album has number one hits and grammy nominations and all the rest. It’s had good reviews and not so good ones,but it hasn’t been too badly panned by anyone that counts. As well, the album was released back in the late spring/early summer, so it’s not like it needs any promotional push from li’l ole me. However, it is a recent album, falling squarely into the 2011 mandate, so really, I’d be an ass not to review it, whether I liked it or not.

Boring Version: Butch Vig, of long and storied production career and Garbage fame, produced this album in Dave Grohl’s garage. There is both a polish and an immediacy to it that bands rarely get back after they’ve reached the stage the Foo Fighters are at. Whether you like this album or not, it’s hard to deny that they at least figured out how to record as a band again, and it shows on a number of the tracks, which just feel like live to tape recordings.

My first exposure to the new album was stepping into the Canadian Tire store on Victoria and Main and hearing this great new Rush song coming over the PA, until I heard Dave Grohl singing the chorus and it dawned on me that perhaps the Foo Fighters were back. Light dawns on marble head. The song was Rope, and just as a heads up, it’s still one of my favourite tunes from 2011, new Yes album notwithstanding.

Bridge Burning starts off all bratty with a scratchy guitar, and then a second riff, and a third and then the drums, and then you realize they’re back when Dave starts screaming. The verse is more melodic, but clean and immediate in a way they haven’t been in a while. Nice chorus, simple and hooky with that huge wall of squall and a driving rhythm. Nothing to prove. They know how to do this. Relax, we’re professionals, ma’am. The bridge adds a slightly more complex chord progression, and then leaves you in space for second, but the tune doesn’t stop moving at a highway driving pace from start to finish. Excellent opener.

Rope has those magic opening guitars in echo, and then that wicked Rush riff opening rhythm sets in, and I can almost feel the small hairs on my neck rising. Coolest bass line I’ve heard on the radio in a few years. I don’t listen to radio much these days. There may be a correlation. Anyway, the chorus is spot on, short, sweet, singable, clear. The lyrics are a layer of low and high vocals in unison, which makes them both evocative and a little hard to hear properly, but you don’t mind much, because that chorus is a pay off for your patience. Then we get the instrumental, where Taylor gets to demonstrate why he is the drummer in this band, and not Dave himself. Leaving on the chorus, we get to that moment where the opening guitar riff closes the song, and you just want them to keep going, which they don’t. Bastards.

Dear Rosemary is a nice rocker with a lilting rhythm the likes of which we haven’t heard much of since the early 80s, when Elvis Costello used a tamer version in Pump It Up. In fact, it might sound perverse to say it, but to my ears, it’s very much like Dave decided to write an 80s New Romantic tune, and then run it through the Foo Fighters sonic machine. Clever idea, really. Simple, clear bridge, layered chorus, very direct, a little more background vocal featured this time out (Bob Mould, according to Wikipedia).

White Limo is a pot boiler, straight on heavy metal number, with throat screaming vocals muted in the background where I like them, so it’s more of a cool vocal effect, which suits me fine. It’s really all about the metal riffs anyway. Dave takes a turn with duelling lead guitar this time around, and even that is muted somewhat, as this whole track is an oversaturated wall of distortion. I wish I could tell you that’s a bad thing, but really, the teenaged me thinks it sounds perfect.

Arlandria brings us back into familiar Foo territory, with a quiet intro and slow build to the chorus. Nice instrumental bridge riff back to the verse, where the proceeding is still a little muted, but Dave’s voice is in fine form as he bridges back to the chorus. The song as a whole has a nice shape to it without getting too fancy. The basic groove runs through the whole thing, except the bits where they build from silence. Nice outro arrangement and sudden stop. All in all, not bad. Not my favourite track, but it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the radio in the late 90s.

These Days starts in almost folk territory. My feeling with this was,and plese don’t look at me funny, but I thought it sounded like Dave Grohl tipping his hat to Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies, because the verse sounds so much like an Ed tune, I wasn’t sure he hadn’t guested on it until I looked it up. The chorus locks it down as Foo Fighters, but then, considering how rocked up the new BNL album was, even that draws parallels. Point is, there’s an easy comparison, but it’s a happy one,a t least for me, because the recent BNL album (which I reviewed in a ‘cage match’ review alongside ex-Lady Steven Page’s new studio album) was my favourite from 2010. This tune wins more points with me every time I hear it.

Back & Forth brings us back to hard rock territory, gigantic riffs and interplay and a nice, chunky bass line along the bottom. You could probably use a tune like this to break ice with, though it’s not as pointy as Rope. The lyric is nice an clear, and that riff, which brings me to mind of classic riffage from the likes of 70s Aerosmith. It’s a very catchy tune.

A Matter of Time also opens on some sweet riffage, a driving beat and plenty of verse, with a rather curiously broken prechorus, which gives it a slightly breezy art rock feel, like the Police off of Ghost in the Machine. The chorus itself locks it all back in as a Foo Fighters song, and after a second round, goes into a bridge that actually brings me back to 70s Aerosmith, which is a nice place to take it. Think Toys in the Attic. We come back to the chorus and rock the hell out of it as we leave.

Miss the Misery starts with one of those hard rock riffs that we’ve been listening to all our lives, with a nice walking bass line and splashes of added guitar that just add something not properly heard on a Foo album before. Then we come to the prechorus/chorus, which is 80s hard rock perfected. The bridge shifts the chorus a bit, and then brings us to a fairly crunchy instrumental that still sounds paleolithic enough to be in a classic Whitesnake tune, or perhaps more like Winger, only without the teenage girls.

I Should Have Known opens with violin and quiet guitar in almost James Bond theme song territory, if they would just give him a shot at it (who better to produce Dave’s Bond theme than Butch?). When the drums and bass join in at the second verse, it retains the Bond theme feel with those twangy guitar lines and swirling violin part. Not sure if it scales the heights of an opening theme, at least until the outro, which really builds. Might be a better end credit tune. Yeah, definitely a great tune for the end of the film. Somebody get Mike and Babs on the phone, stat. We need a Dave and Dave collaboration, pronto!

Walk is the last track, and for those who were waiting for a pop song, here it is. And you know what? Fuck off, it’s gorgeous. I could play this tune over and over, and it’s still not my favourite. After the opening segment, it rocks up and gets some serious balls on it, bouncing around and knocking stuff over the way bulls are supposed to. This is what we buy Foo Fighters albums for. Well, except me. I buy them for stuff like Rope, but I don’t skip the anthems. Nice bridge that does things we don’t usually hear in Foo anthems. It’s got hair on it. And that chorus could sell a movie. Maybe not the bond film, but still, a great song. And a great end to the album.

Aw, c’mon, you need me to tell you what I think of this one? Listen, my album of the year was and still is Fly From Here by Yes, but if you asked me if it was the proggiest, I’d say no. That honour went to Levin/Torn/White, which I also reviewed. But as for rockingest, well, here it is, ladies and gentlemen.

I can tolerate some general Foo Bashing here and there, but I won’t hear smack about this album. It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s a dry 90 in the shade, and doesn’t have any of the pointless flab that Dave succumbed to on the double album, or the slight mental fatigue of the last album (which had The Pretender, still one of my top three Foo tunes of all time). Might not be your top album, but if you haven’t listened to it and heard how solid it is, you really don’t know what you’re talking about. This is smart rock and roll. Go get it, already.

Good luck at the Grammy’s, guys.

© 2012 Lee Edward Mcilmoyle

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