Foo Fighters reassert greatness with Wasting Light, the third instant classic of their seven-album career. Wedding the hurricane bumrush of In Your Honor (minus its superfluous acoustic disc) to the angry emotional uncertainty of The Colour And The Shape, Light offers a crack band on its surest footing. No concessions to radio here, nor filler. All business, nasty and lean, ten tracks, forty-eight minutes–hell, the token yuk-it-up Dave Grohl piss-take (“White Limo”) rocks harder than any song on the record. Foo Fighters ran in place on their previous album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Wasting Light more than makes up for the difference.
Much has been made of the album’s back-to-basics approach, recorded as it was in Dave Grohl’s “garage” with production by old friend Butch Vig. Even Pat Smear, the Foos’ original lead guitarist, is back in the fold. The effect of these adjustments may be overstated; Light‘s success is borne of melodic dynamism and raw power, same as any great record by this band. Still, whatever works, and these Foo Fighters sound inspired.
It’s fifth-gear stuff from the jump, with the jagged “Bridges Burning” lurching into lead single “Rope,” a so-so success on the radio but a rip-roarer in context of the album. There’s real vulnerability at play here, and Grohl’s lyrics feel richer and more honest than any effort since Shape. “Dear Rosemary” sets the table, Bob Mould adding a little basso profundo to Grohl, who’s doing the old croon-‘n-scream as well as he ever has. Then comes “Limo,” all fun, a clear wink to Grohl’s buddies in Eagles Of Death Metal, and then onto “Arlandria,” the song that makes it clear we’re hearing something special.
“Arlandria” is just this side of radio-friendly, brandishing Wasting Light‘s first great hook. It’s catchy, it rocks, and it aches. Grohl may be bliss in marriage, two young kids and all, but he’s singing to somebody here, and whether the object is memory or fiction, that honesty is key. It’s easy to read “These Days” in similar fashion, its anthemic surge tempered by a half-shrouded attack on religion, politics, or both. “Back And Forth” could have been straight-up husband-rock, but the lyrics stay coy enough.
The buildup has been so good that “A Matter Of Time” and “Miss The Misery,” back-to-back work-ups that would be gems on a lesser record, bide the time before the one-two punch that concludes the show. “I Should Have Known” is an epic power ballad, Black Album-esque, even, and despondent to the core. Then comes the encore, the sublime “Walk,” an incandescent singalong triumph that sees every single the band has ever released, raises the stakes to the ceiling, and walks away from the table. The song’s reputation will likely be tarnished by ubiquitous manipulation by film and television (the week before Wasting Light‘s physical release, “Walk” already peppered ESPN programming), but that by no means should torpedo the song’s legitimate greatness. It seals the deal on an album that attains the same.
Whether the Foos will follow up Wasting Light with an effort just as excellent remains to be seen. Historically, they’ve bided a little time between their best albums. No matter. Mainstream rock needs its heavyweights, and one of them just delivered a masterpiece.