Foo Fighters “Wasting Light” Review
Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: Album Reviews, Music.
The release of Wasting Light from the Foo Fighters carries with it an unusual sense of urgency that hasn’t been experienced for quite some time with the band. Perhaps the gravity of the release is due in part to the new documentary tackling the Foo’s history and recent tribulations, a film which has been largely marketed for its insider’s look into the near-demise of the band. Or it could be that the 16th anniversary of the Foo Fighters’ debut album is quickly approaching. Or it could simply be that the timing’s right, the stars have aligned, and with grunge-nostalgia on the rise, fans have once again started to crave some new material from the group. Whatever the case, with Wasting Light all of this momentum has helped create one most consistent albums in the band’s history. The problem is, that’s about all it really has going for it.
No, this isn’t to say that Wasting Light is terrible or that it doesn’t interject some energy into the run of ballad-heavy LPs which has flowed from the group over the past decade. Opener “Bridge Burning” quickly squashes that idea by breaking out with an explosive drum and guitar combination before Dave Grohl wails, “These are my famous last words!” The song retreats into an alluring chug but still carries a progressive pace, one which leads nicely into “Rope.” With an echoing guitar stutter the album’s most accessible single does well to keep momentum going into the group’s collaboration with the legendary Bob Mould. “Dear Rosemary” holds its own as one of the album’s best tracks, with Grohl bellowing “Truth ain’t gonna change you lie/Youth ain’t gonna change you die” before sharing a layered call-and-response with Mould. The explosive “White Limo” rounds out the first quarter of the album with Grohl growling and screaming his way through the sharp and aggressive track. If ever there were a reason to celebrate the Foo Fighters, surely these first songs should be enough cause, right? Yes and no.
Though consistent, Wasting Light is still noticeably front-loaded. While no track on the album would do any better at following “White Limo,” the jump from the explosive standout to “Arlandria” creates a noticeable dip in the album’s rugged appeal, immediately shifting from a refreshing rock effort to something that’s on the same level with the majority of what’s come before it from the band. “These Days” only highlights this shift further as its soft vocal introduction — which finds Grohl crooning “One of these days the ground will drop out from beneath your feet/One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat” — restrains the track before it finds its groove with a mid-tempo beat. The song’s got a great chorus, as many do on the album, but it only ends up illuminating a larger trend which runs throughout Wasting Light.
An average-sounding song for the Foo Fighters is still a fairly enjoyable track. But what’s been true elsewhere in the band’s catalog is also true of Wasting Light: once each song is put under a microscope and listened to on its own, out of the context of the bigger picture, they begin to lose their luster. From “Arlandria” through to Grohl’s throaty plea in album closer “Walk,” there is a consistent flow here which can’t be argued, but all the same, each song’s individual effectiveness is blurred by the compounding of the select moments which actually stand out on the release. A few good choruses on their own don’t add up to a whole lot, but when you begin to group them together, that collection of largely forgettable tracks can appear to carry far more impact than they did on their own. From “Back & Forth” to “A Matter of Time” to “Miss the Misery,” there are moments that shine through in each of the album’s tracks, but unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening here; on their own Wasting Light‘s individual parts do not appear to equal the album’s whole.
The press leading up to Wasting Light has largely been focused on the album’s unique creation. Yes, the Foo Fighters went analog with the recording; yes, they reverted to the familiarity of Butch Vig to oversee production; and yes, guitarist Pat Smear reclaimed a full-time position in the band and was joined by his co-Nirvana alumni Krist Noveselic for a song (the familiar sounding “I Should Have Known”). But after listening to the album over and over and over again, all of this begins to take on more of a hint of desperation than reinvention. Once the immediate appeal wears off, Wasting Light begins to reveal itself as an album that does a good job of sounding like a well-rounded mainstream rock record should sound if it wants to play to the widest audience possible. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t think that by being consistent at sounding like a good rock band that the Foo Fighters are doing anything spectacular here. At its heart, Wasting Light is just another step for a group that’s already seen its best days come and go, led by a frontman who is doing himself a great disservice by not spending more time behind the drum kit, where he never fails to show the exact spirit which is missing from the Foo Fighters.
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]