Foo Fighters are the last great American rock band. Now, before everyone races to refute the assertion, let me qualify it by saying that, through Dave Grohl’s years as the leader (and one-time sole bandmember, a’la the debut), the group has never been alt-indie-dance-trance-neo-neuro-prog-samba. Their stock-in-trade has been two guitars, bass, drums, attitude, harmonies in big choruses and, essentially, just what you expect a capital-R Rock Band to be. You’d want nothing less from their latest, Wasting Light and, fortunately for you, you get nothing less either.
A lot has been made of the mini-reunion aspects of this disc — Pat Smear is credited as a member of the band again (his first since The Colour And The Shape back in 1997), former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic plays bass on “I Should Have Known” and Nevermind producer Butch Vig is behind the boards for Wasting Light. The biggest nod to a reckoning of the past lies on the song “Back & Forth” featuring a rubbery, descending riff not unlike one found in Nirvana’s “Lithium.” But to relegate the album to the minefields of photocopied old glories overlooks other thrills like the crunchy single “Rope” and the crunchier “White Limo.” Grohl’s time with Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and his own metal offshoot Probot all inform the heavier sides of the disc.
Yet Wasting Light is not a metal or pop-metal effort. Interspersed with the tracks, all of which could never be misconstrued outright as balladry, is the understanding of a ballad. When it is time to sing, Grohl sings. The most prominent example is “I Should Have Known,” which build from the mournful into an angry resolve as he sings, “No, I cannot forgive you yet.” Considering this song is the one with Novoselic and Vig’s combined contribution, I guess there will be a lot said over whether this is Grohl’s statement about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. That might be far too reductionist though.
I’ve always enjoyed Foo Fighters to greater (The Colour And The Shape, There Is Nothing Left To Lose) and lesser (One By One, In Your Honor) degrees. I found the previous Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace to be the best balance of the band’s inclinations, something which the prominent rock angle on Wasting Light fails to recapture. The new one also stumbles a bit on the track “Dear Rosemary,” for while it features rock hero Bob Mould, it also sounds uncomfortably similar to The Raconteurs’ “Steady As She Goes.” Yet with all the negatives laid out on the table, what remains is still a mighty piece of music, so I’ll take it and be glad. It’s a solid album from America’s last great, plain ol’, no-BS rock band.
Wasting Light is available from Amazon.com.