Recorded on analog tape with no computers and no software, in the garage of Dave Grohl’s San Fernando Valley home, Wasting Light is Foo Fighters’ attempt to return to the nuts and gristle of proper bad-ass rocking.
Removing the gloss and shimmer from albums is in itself a contemporary trend and there is, no doubt, an app for that – but the no fuss approach suits the Foos well.
This album sounds a good deal heavier and barer than ever before, and much closer to their live sound without succumbing to all out manly riffing – something that must have been tempting considering their hallowed position and the close proximity of all those power tools. In a strange way the Foo Fighters have become the people’s rock band, a group who unite casual music fans with obsessives who could tell you the middle names of everyone who ever played with Thin Lizzy. There are many reasons for this – one is that Grohl has never taken himself too seriously, another is that he has never forgotten the importance of a good chorus, he’s always surrounded himself with class musicians, and his former band Nirvana are the lingua franca of all modern rock.
For all the affection, Foo Fighters have never released a truly classic album, but Wasting Light comes closest. Occasional live guitarist Pat Smear (who played live for Nirvana just prior to Kurt Cobain’s suicide) has rejoined the band as a core member, bringing with him a far more muscular and wiry sound, and seemingly freeing Grohl up for more howling at the moon action – White Limo is a speeding shredder that finds Grohl screaming his lungs out, Miss The Misery a charging epic that climaxes in an unbridling collision of squealing guitar and grizzled barking. Masterful stuff.
There are of course the crowd pleasing anthems – These Days is an instant classic that adheres to the quiet-bit/loud-bit equation with gusto, Dear Rosemary features a stunning duet with Hüsker Dü singer Bob Mould, and Walk is a gigantic motivational triumph-over- adversity rocker. There is also a Nirvana reunion of sorts, with Krist Novoselic contributing bass and accordion to I Should Have Known – a mournful blockbuster that will doubtlessly be interpreted as being about Grohl’s past.
Most bands struggle to follow a Greatest Hits album. Foo Fighters have followed theirs with a record that sounds like another Greatest Hits album. They’re unstoppable.