Since the Foo Fighters (consisting of guitarist/singer Dave Grohl, guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer Taylor Hawkins) were formed out of the demise of Nirvana (who Grohl played drums with) in 1995, the band has had one of the most consistent and successful careers in modern rock, although their music has been somewhat stale over the past decade. "The Color and the Shape," (1997,) and "There is Nothing Left to Lose," (1999,) are two classics of ‘90s rock, showcasing Grohl’s love of punk anthems, power ballads and ‘70s pop rock. The band’s last three albums (2002’s "One by One," 2005’s "In Your Honor" and 2007’s "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace") had flashes of their earlier greatness, but they sounded like a band going through the motions. One had to wonder if the group was growing complacent with age.
The Foo Fighters’ seventh album, "Wasting Light," puts all of those fears to rest. It is an outstanding album, by far the best set of songs the band has put out since the late 90s. Produced by Butch Vig, who produced Nirvana’s "Nevermind," and recorded in Grohl’s garage, "Wasting Light" is a true back-to-basics album, with the group returning to their greatest strength: creating loud, melodic and impassioned rock.
The album takes off right from the opening track, "Burning Bridge," with racing guitars, Grohl’s passionate howl and an instantly memorable chorus. Grohl is not the greatest songwriter in the world, but the key to the Foo Fighters has been the delivery; their best songs are delivered with so much energy that any lyrical shortcomings go unnoticed. The band is smart enough to know that when creating memorable music, volume mean nothing if there is not a good song at the core, and "Wasting Light" has plenty of both.
There is not a single weak song on the album, and while this is one of the Foo Fighters’ heaviest records, none of the songs sound forced. The album continues with the Led Zeppelin-inspired "Rope," the hardcore tantrum "White Limo," the catchy pop of "Dear Rosemary" (with guest vocals from Husker Du’s Bob Mould) and the anguished ballad "These Days." The entire band is in peak form, with melodic guitar work from Grohl, Shiflett and Smear and the solid rhythm section of Mendel and Hawkins. Grohl’s versatility as a singer has always been underrated; he can go from a laid-back croon to a full on scream in the course of a single verse. Those are just some of the elements that make the band sound more alive than they have the past few years on record.
The one thing that makes "Wasting Light" so special is that Dave Grohl fully confronts his past with Nirvana and the passing of Kurt Cobain. Ever since the Foo Fighters’ debut, Grohl’s music has been bombarded with speculation as to which songs are about Cobain. Some of their songs have made minor references to Cobain and Nirvana, but the best song on this album finally takes it head on: "I Should Have Known." The song, which features Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic on bass, is a mournful fit right in with Nirvana’s 1993 released, "In Utero." Grohl sings: "I should’ve known/That it would end this way," likely referring to Cobain’s 1994 suicide. Combined with strings, Novoselic’s brooding bass line and Grohl’s anguished chanting of "I will not forgive you yet," the song has an emotional impact with Grohl finally having the last word about this tragedy.
But "Wasting Light" does not end on a sour note. The album’s finale, "Walk," an uplifting anthem that is one of the group’s finest, has Grohl singing about making the most of being alive and no longer being defined by tragedies in the past: "Learning to walk again/I believe I’ve waited long enough," and closing with a chant of "I don’t wanna die" while the band flails behind him. With the triumphant return to form that is "Wasting Light," the Foo Fighters are only looking forward.