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Foo Fighters - "Wasting Light" (CD)

Foo Fighters - "Wasting Light" CD cover image

"Wasting Light" track listing:

1. Bridge Burning
2. Rope
3. Dear Rosemary
4. White Limo
5. Arlandria
6. These Days
7. Back & Forth
8. A Matter Of Time
9. Miss The Misery
10. I Should Have Known
11. Walk

Reviewed by on April 23, 2011

"On 'Wasting Light,' Grohl seems to be making a conscious effort to put the ghost of Nirvana to rest — by embracing it more closely than ever. "

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl has described "Wasting Light" as the heaviest album of the band's decade-and-a-half career. For the most part, that's true, with the disc having an excellent garage-born ambience about it. And, despite a slightly flabby midsection, it's also the band's most cohesive album since the 1997 masterpiece "The Colour And The Shape."

After some time away from the Foos, Grohl seems to have been reenergized as a player and songwriter. "Bridge Burning" sets the stage for the album with a single guitar lighting the fuse before the song explodes from your speakers with Grohl joined by longtime guitarist Chris Shiflett and the returning Pat Smear, back after a 14-year hiatus. The band puts the full weight of three guitars to great use on the first few tracks, with a wah-wah-soaked solo on "Rope" especially standing out.

"White Limo" mixes distorted shrieking vocals with the band's pop-tinged punk to great effect, while "Arlandria" mixes quiet and loud sections with autobiographical lyrics. It's an approach that hints at the majesty of what's to come later in the album.

One of the criticisms Grohl has endured since the first Foo Fighters album is that the Foos are basically "Nirvana-lite," playing a poppier take on the grunge music of his previous band. For his part, Grohl has tried to avoid talking about Nirvana, saying he's uncomfortable discussing the death of that band's frontman, Kurt Cobain.

On "Wasting Light," Grohl seems to be making a conscious effort to put the ghost of Nirvana to rest — by embracing it more closely than ever. Butch Vig, who produced Nirvana's breakthrough album "Nevermind" is back behind the control board. Smear, who played with Nirvana in that band's closing days, is back slinging his ax and — on "I Should Have Known," a track obviously referencing the hurt, confusion and sadness over Cobain's suicide — Grohl and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic play together for the first time since the end of Nirvana.

Like "Arlandria," "I Should Have Known" blends quiet and loud. A soft violin part by guest Jessy Green adds foreboding as Grohl yanks the scab off his most public wound, declaring that, even after all this time, "I cannot forgive you yet." The song is a maelstrom of sadness, pain and anger, descending into metallic fury near the end, with Nate Mendel's bass striking sinister notes. "Walk" completes the cycle, with Grohl's lyric about learning to cope with life and the band rocking resurgently behind him.

As splendid as the album's beginning and ending are, it must be noted that the band does shift into autopilot for a few tracks in the middle. "These Days" and "Back & Forth" especially are Foos-by-the-numbers tracks that could've appeared on any of the band's last few albums. They're not bad, by any means, but they are pretty forgettable in comparison.

At its best, Foo Fighters' "Wasting Light" rocks harder than anything else the band has come up with, without completely jettisoning the pop sheen that differentiates them from the rest of the punks. Lyrically, it's far beyond the band's most recent output, with Grohl wrestling with the demons of his past. In short, it's an excellent hard rocker that will be on plenty of people's best-of lists at the end of this year.

Highs: "I Should Have Known," "Bridge Burning" and "Rope"

Lows: A slightly flabby midsection, with "These Days" and "Back & Forth" feeling especially generic.

Bottom line: An excellent hard-rocker that has frontman Dave Grohl confronting the demons of his past.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)