Review Summary: In times like these on days like these, Foo Fighters learn to rock again.
Preceding this release, the Foo released their Greatest Hits collection. Aside from this being their best due to the fact that it held the best Foo Fighters songs, it also highlighted a fact that sticks out like a sore thumb in their discography: They have always been a singles band. With each album, they release one or two fantastic singles, always driving straightforward rock songs. When it came to the entirety of their albums, however, the singles were always padded by filler. So when White Limo, the first single released from Wasting Light, surfaced with its distorted heavy metal guitars, cacophonous drumming, and Dave Grohl shredding his vocal chords, I was shocked into awe, but still reluctant. I actually passed up listening to it when the stream was posted; I didn't want to be disappointed by one of my idols again. Then I saw the nostalgic video for Rope, a grungy alt-rock song with a memorable chorus, and was convinced to give the album a listen.
On their last proper LP Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, the Foo delivered their biggest dud yet. The filler was stagnant and boring, they overreached with 'experimental' compositions, and even the second single, Long Road To Ruin, was impossibly boring. They seemed caught up in their current position as arena rock heroes and trying too hard to satisfy fans with what was expected of them. On Wasting Light, however, the Foo look to the past, and it turns out nostalgia is a driving force for the enjoyment one will get out of this album. I won't go into the backstory like most reviewers, I'll just say this: to hear Bob Moulds aged bellow on Dear Rosemary is thrilling, and when Kris Novoselic pushes the haunting I Should Have Known with his huge fat bassline into overdrive, one can't help but smile. Even the memory of the disappointing and boring Echoes is good to look back upon, because the Foo don't just blow it out of the water with this release, they pound it into submission and scream and spit in the face of its complacency. Strangely enough, it is the shadow of the legend Grohl has been trying to outrun for his entire career (I'm sure I don't need to name the famous deceased singer) that resides in every space of the album.
It hangs over Rope, with it grungy spiked verses, but the Foo make it their own with the catchy alt-rock chorus. Its in White Limo, with its seething aggression, yet its a more calculated chaos than Cobain would have penned. Again in Burning Bridges, in its outright vocal intensity and careening musical backdrop. But none more present is the ghost of Cobain than in penultimate track I Should Have Known, a haunting and haunted indictment against the Nirvana legend. A wounded Grohl lashes out at all of his demons, over music that swells and is both beautiful and gritty. And when Novoselic crashes in with his thick powerful bassline? Its an emotional bloodletting from Grohl, and the most affecting Foo Fighters song to date, packing a punch no one would have formerly thought them capable of, and the result is transcendent.
What this record holds is simply the best the Foo Fighters have to offer: Grohl is as versatile as ever, at once crooning and in turn stretching his youthful scream to its limits; Taylor Hawkins, as always, is a downright intimidating drumming backbone, an absolute monster on the kit; and this record sees the return of former Foo guitarist and punk rock journeyman Pat Smear to the lineup, who beefs up the already huge wall of sound of the snaking and snarling guitars. This is the most immediate, driving, consistent, heavy, and fun set of songs Foo Fighters have yet to release; the energy doesn't dip for a single second, Grohl and company chugging through the 11 tracks with the reckless abandon of a runaway train. This is simply the best modern heavy rock there is, next to Chevelle. Foo Fighters have learned to rock again, and better than ever before.