Wasting Light is a layered, complex album that is both immediately agreeable and yet withholds its most rewarding facets for repeated listens. On the surface, it’s a boisterous celebration of hook-laden arena rock that sounds like trademark Foo Fighters. Deeper in, though, it’s a yearning and thoughtful portrait of a band that’s more vital in its 17th year that it’s ever been.
Recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage studio—an environment that more ably captures the vibe of the band than any plush studio ever could—Wasting Light is as warm as it is unhinged. The Foos show off every aspect of their sound, yielding hard-core metal, snotty garage rock, pop-punk and straight-ahead burners in pursuit of something that sounds like where they started out and where they’ve ascended to all at once.
The first single, “Rope,” is a deceptively simple mid-tempo rocker that outclasses most fellow tunes on current modern rock playlists by revealing itself slowly but surely. There aren’t many major rock bands with the cajones to put out a song that takes a while to grow on the average listener. But Foo Fighters aren’t the typical mainstream band, by a long stretch.
“White Limo” careens wildly into near-screamo territory, shredding Grohl’s throat with a full bore shout over a racing metal track. It’s accessible, yet authentic, bearing out the Foo Fighters’ unmatched versatility.
In other places, Wasting Light approaches Nirvana at it’s poppy college-rock finest. “Arlandria” is unabashedly catchy, but buzzes with the edge of a lost 120 Minutes classic. “Back and Forth,” the hookiest tune in the bunch, is either spoiling for a fight or (at least) begging for better communication.
The Foos are also known for their ability to take the intensity down a few notches and deliver wrenching slower fare. “Walk” is this album’s best example of the Fighter’s more emotional work, coming off as a passionate autobiographical snapshot rather than the inspirational theme music it’s destined to become in popular culture. There’s a tear in Grohl’s voice when he sings “I think I lost my way” in the opening verse, his delivery gaining strength through the song before building to the powerfully confident crescendo “I never wanna die.” It’s a fittingly poignant place to end the most compelling album of the band’s career.
Through sheer strength of will and artistic integrity, the Foo Fighters have–once and for all–rendered the “underrated” label they’ve always been anchored with irrelevant. Their place in rock history be damned; this is a band that knows who they are and, with Wasting light, have delivered their finest work to date.
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