Still the Foo's after all these years

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light 3.5 Stars
Foo Fighters: Back & Forth – 3 stars
The past seven days have provided Foo Fighters fan's a wealth of new information via the documentary 'Back & Forth' and the release of their latest album 'Wasting Light'. This past decade has seen some interesting growth in other bands who have been applying for the “Greatest Band In The World”. Green Day has been exploring rock opera's and Broadway. Muse continues to make noise, climbing the charts and taking prog rock into the new century. The Killers can't decide if they want the job or if they want to be their generation's Pearl Jam. My Chemical Romance wants the gig, but critics continue not to take them seriously.

Meanwhile, Dave Grohl has piloted the Foo Fighters into contention, without ever changing their sound. Not that this is a bad thing. Petty & The Heartbreakers have managed remain compelling for thirty five years without messing with a good thing. Placing The Foos career next to Petty's may well be an apt comparison, since the Foo Fighters, like most of the other bands mentioned earlier, owe as much to arena rock of the seventies as to their punk & grunge roots.

As Petty once said to the effect that “when you put those six guys together, they make a noise that is the Heartbreakers”. In the documentary, Dave says much the same thing, that is the Foo Fighters 'sound' is those people making music together.

As for the claim that Foo Fighters are applying for the job of 'Biggest Band In The World'? After selling out Wembley in 2008, Dave and the band sold out two nights Milton Keynes in short order, selling 110,000 tickets, which is more than Green Day or Muse. Watching 'Back & Forth' really gives you a background look at why this has happened. Foo Fighters are relentless road warriors and have built their career on live shows.

I have to give them credit, not just for their work ethic, but for the honesty with which Dave addressed the seemingly callous nature of the earlier days of the band. From the rather unceremonious dumping of original touring drummer William Goldsmith to the revolving door of guitar players (Pat Smear to Franz Stahl to Chris Shiflett and finally Chris & Pat), all the parties were interviewed. William's line to Dave after being offered the touring drummer gig, “As it is, I have to rebuild my soul.”, is heartbreaking as is Dave's melancholy response, “It was a really weird time and I was young... what the fuck...”

A lot of bands want to whitewash their history, but how un Foo Fighters would it have been if they had done that? I think that much the growing pains are explained with Dave's comment that most bands have this stuff happen they just don't have it happen in front of the whole world. If you are Foo Fighters fan, or if you are just interested in a background look at the growth of a band, you would like this documentary. Also, Nate Mendel does an amazing, though possibly unintentional, imitation of Dave.

While I wouldn't go so far as calling it an unflinching look at the growth of band, I would say it is one of the better rock documentaries.

On their latest album, Foo Fighters are in full force. I know many fans dismiss 'Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace' as just a good album, but I see it as a the band expanding their sound, an evolution that started with 'In Your Honor'. Four years later, it has come to fruition. As I noted earlier, this band is not known for radically changing their style, so you are not going to confuse this album with anything but a Foo Fighters album. The key here is evolution. 'Wasting Light' is a more polished and mature Foo Fighters album.

Recorded in Dave Grohl's 'garage' on tape, under Butch Vig's supervision, the mood of this album reflects the comfortable and casual nature of their breakthrough album 'There Is Nothing Left To Lose'. A veritable who's who of Dave's friends and idols show up on this album adding to the atmosphere.

Starting with Bridge Burning and Rope, songs that are clearly right up the Foo Fighters alley, they would not be out of place on any previous release. Nate's bass on Bridge Burning is top notch and Pat Smear is in epic form in his solo on Rope.

Hüsker Dü's Bob Mould shows up on the very good Rosemary, harmonizing with Dave and playing guitar. White Limo is like the Foo Fighters meet Motörhead (Lemmy is in the video) after a hard night drinking with the Beasties. I don't have much to say about Arlandria or These Days other then they represent the new 'expanded' Foo Fighters sound. They are both very listenable and you will find yourself humming them later. I would add they both show that rare talent Dave and the band have to write a catchy pop hook and I am a sucker for catchy pop hooks.

Back & Forth is an interesting song. Whether this is a song about closure or being tired of walking on eggshells, it is reflective of the more mature sound and lyrics of the band. A Matter Of Time also reflects that wisdom of age. Miss The Misery features Fee Waybill of the Tubes on backing vocals and it's lyrics of compulsive, unhealthy love and introspection are more empowering than melancholy.

I Should Of Known brings this album to it's peak. This is my favorite song on this album, featuring Krist Novoselic on bass and accordian, with Dave and Pat, it is as close as you can get to a Nirvana reunion. With the complete sound of the mellotron played Rami Jaffee and Jessy Green's haunting violin, this is, to my mind, the best song Dave Grohl has ever written.

I know a lot of people are going to wonder if it's about Kurt, but really, does that matter? The opening lyrics tell the story we all have had, whether it is a broken heart, a broken promise or a broken soul:
I should have known,
That it would end this way,
I should have known,
There was no other way,
Didn't hear your warning,
Damn my heart on it.
The chorus is just as succinct:
Though I cannot forgive you yet, No I cannot forgive you yet,
To leave my heart intact, No I cannot forgive you yet
I should have known
With those words, I Should Of Known rockets to the top of my top six essential Foo Fighters songs. After the powerful emotions of that song, the albums final song, Walk, could be a bit of a letdown. It almost feels like an answer to I Should Of Known, saying no matter what happens, we all need get back up and start again.

Evolution and growth. A powerful combination making for a powerful album, maybe their best since 'In Your Honor'. As for their growth and continued success, I sum up with Mr. Grohl's words at the end of the documentary, 'Back & Forth', “I feel bad about the bad things, I feel good about the good things, but I wouldn't change a thing.” Neither would we, Dave.
One more video: Rope

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