Foo Fighters found superstardom through the path less taken: the power of the radio. Well, back when the radio still had power, anyway. Over their 16 year run, Foo Fighters have cranked out some great rock standards (resulting in an ass-kicking greatest hits), but they’ve never really had a consistently great album. After three steady albums and stellar singles, they’ve still kept their single quality up to scratch, but were starting to feel aged on 2007’s scattershot Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace.
So thank God for Josh Homme and Them Crooked Vultures. After that supergroup, Foo Fighters frontman and all around nice guy Dave Grohl took his main band back to his garage (literally), recorded the album on all analogue equipment, and for added 90s flavor brought back former guitarist Pat Smear and producer Butch Vig. His main objective for Wasting Light? Bring on the rock.
He succeeds! Wasting Light is one of the band’s best albums, and finally finds that consistency that’s been missing. No acoustic numbers, no instrumentals, just lots and lots of three guitar rock band onslaught. Opener “Bridge Burning” is the most exciting rock song I’ve heard all year, and a classic in the making: the intro and chorus absolutely rock, but it’s married to a melodic pre-chorus and deft verses. This dexterity is shown again in lead single “Rope”, which is one of the Foos’ most precise songs to date.
Wasting Light is given additional oomph from Vig’s production. One of about three superproducers responsible for 90’s alt, Vig makes sure that everything comes in perfectly clear without ever sounding too polished or inorganic. And while the band keeps the rock switch engaged for the entire album, there’s a fair bit of variety. The throat-destroying “White Limo” stomps like Songs for the Death-era Queens of the Stone Age while “Back & Forth” is almost delightfully poppy.
As far as standouts go, centerpiece “Arlandria” is worth noting. Opening with a riff out of Them Crooked Vultures before restraining itself again, the song builds and builds on itself to a fist-in-the-air chorus. The level of songcraft throughout the album is admirable already, but “Arlandria” takes it up another notch. Grohl himself seems to have stepped up his game for this album, too. At the 42, he still roars and screams in all the right places, and still perfectly matches the band’s loud-soft dynamics. Confrontations both past and present surface on Wasting Light‘s lyric sheet, especially on “I Should Have Known”, a mini-Nirvana reunion (Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic plays on this song, Butch Vig produced Nevermind), who’s lyrics bring K.Cobain himself to mind.
As great as this record is, there are still a few flaws. The uniformity of these songs bears heavily on a few of the later cuts (Wasting Light is a tad top heavy, despite a strong finish), and “Miss the Misery” comes off as a moody mess. Perhaps a calmer moment or two in the vein of older songs like “February Stars” or “Aurora” as a breather would have been helpful amidst the 48 minute Rock-a-thon. All in all, a solid Foo Fighters’ album that shows a band doing what they do best, 4 out of 5 stars.
tl;dr: Possibly the best Foo Fighters album in a decade, 4/5.