Monday, June 6, 2011

Wasting Light -- Foo Fighters

You are probably thinking, "Foo Fighters? Meh... probably a slightly above average rock album with a few really good songs". Many times that assessment would be correct, but it is actually much better than that this time around. It seemed highly unlikely that after being in the music business for the past 20 years that Dave Grohl would do anything surprising or exciting, but with Wasting Light he did just that. In the opening moments of the 2011 Foo Fighters release Grohl screams, "These are my famous last words". Maybe the band is in its twilight possibly explaining the effort the band put in to make this album their best yet.

This easily could be the album that Grohl has been wanting to make for the entirety of his illustrious career in music. There may be no album that captures his essence better than Wasting Light. From the very beginning of the album, one will notice something is slightly different from the Foos' previous releases. It may be a difficult thing to put a finger on at first, but the ever-so-important change is the passion in Grohl's voice. Don't get me wrong, there has always been a sense of urgency and passion in the man's voice, but this time it feels as if he believes every word with every ounce of his being. When listening, one will be sad when Grohl is hurt, angry when Grohl is upset, and at peace when Grohl is at ease. There is a lot to be said for an artist that can convey his emotions so well that they are adopted by the observer. This is one of the most beautiful, and therefore important, aspects of art and there is no shortage of it in Wasting Light.

The next thing that will catch listeners' ears by surprise is the musical experimentation that took place with this release. No, Foo Fighters didn't make any groundbreaking musical progress, but it came as a pleasant surprise that they did not sit back and accept mediocrity. This fact is evident in no song more than the first single, "Rope". This song may actually take a few listens to really sink in, but once it does, it becomes one of the many highlights of the album. It is difficult to explain what makes this song so unique, but there is definitely something special there. It is the combination of the dual lead guitars, amazing harmonies, and the contrast of the abrupt (even harsh) verses and beautiful choruses. The song is complete with a mini-drum solo and a guitar solo (a true rarity for the band, but not for this album). The song was an excellent choice for a first single because it showed that they were not holding anything back for the album.

One of the biggest developments for Foo Fighters was something that the untrained listener may not be able to truly appreciate. The band really took it up a notch on the background vocals and harmonies. Even if it goes unappreciated, it will will definitely not go unnoticed. Songs such as "Rope" and "Dear Rosemary" are elevated from being great to amazing because of all that takes place in the background. I do not know where this talent has been hiding for the last few albums, but I'm glad that it finally showed itself. The need for quality backing vocals for an album to enter the upper-echelon cannot be stressed enough.

As always the Foos produced numerous choruses with which the crowds are sure to be caught singing along. "Rope" rears its lovely head again for this category along with "Bridge Burning", "Dear Rosemary", "Arlandria", "Back & Forth", and "Walk". This is nothing new for Foo Fighters, so "White Limo" should be a focal point instead. This is a side of the Foos that you've never heard. The band has produced their fair share of songs on the heavier side, but this one is different. The song has more energy than any other as it chugs and pushes on from the start to the finish. It is one of the least dark songs that can be placed in the genre of heavy music. Even though there is a lot of screaming and driving guitars, there is something positive lingering underneath it all. It must be listened to to be truly understood. The same holds true with "These Days". The music of the song is not the contrasting element in this case, but rather the lyrics. While Grohl warns, "One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat", one can't help but feel at ease. It is quite an odd experience, but it is difficult to feel anxious or upset when the lyrics are being sung so beautifully and peacefully.

Wasting Light may be the first Foo Fighters album that lacks the filler material that has plagued previous releases, it is not without fault. The problem is that it tends to drag a bit toward the end. After the first 5 or 6 songs, a listener may be ready to proclaim it "Album of the Year". Not so fast. Unfortunately the album loses quite a bit of steam and flair at the back end. That is not to say that the songs do not stand up incredibly well on their own, but they tend to run together and become a bore when the album is listened to as a whole. A major turn off in the worst song on the album, "Miss the Misery", is the fact that one of the riffs sounds identical to one that the band used earlier in the hit song, "Monkey Wrench". The song really isn't all that bad, but it is very difficult to get past that little portion of the song. The final flaw of the album is that while there are several great songs, there is no "Everlong". There is no song that can carry the album entirely on its own.

Even with the slowdown at the end of Wasting Light" Foo Fighters proved they still had enough in the tank to make a stellar album and are still much more than relevant. It may not be album of the year, but it is certainly the best work as a whole the band has ever released and will definitely make a run for alternative rock album of the year. The musicianship of the band is at its peak with Taylor Hawkins still blasting away as possibly the best drummer in alternative rock, and with the addition of guitar solos as well as overall great writing. It was nice to hear the entire band improve and not be overshadowed by drumming. In Wasting Light, Hawkins is no longer the major focal point of the band. That status goes to Dave Grohl's passion.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5
Genre: Alternative Rock

Recommended Songs:
Burning Bridges
Dear Rosemary

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