It’s good to hear that the somewhat tumultuous relationship between Dave Grohl and various Foo Fighters has eased of late. The past decade has seen personal tensions affect their work, with One by One re-recorded in double quick time, a decision that came after the original sessions were filled with rows over Grohl’s non-committal attitude to the band. Even when the Foos’ frontman had put his Queens of the Stone Age flirtation into the past, the band were strangled by his ambition on the hugely flawed double album, In Your Honour.
Wasting Light is certainly better than both those records. It also puts the spectacularly successful Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace into the shade. It isn’t however, the quantum leap that some reactions have painted it as. There’s still the slump two thirds in (on the plodding ‘A Matter of Time’ and ‘Miss the Misery’), there’s still the Foos’ never-ending struggle with the middle-eight and Grohl still hides his voice in the mix whenever the tune isn’t quite there.
Unlike other Foo Fighters albums though, Wasting Light overcomes these low points because it actually sounds like a record that’s been carefully put together; 11 sections of what is overall an immensely entertaining piece of work. There’s a slight shift in tone from previous records as well – away from the jangled open chord melodies that muddied the waters in times past.
Take ‘Dear Rosemary’ three tracks in, which veers from a grand opening to a clever, spiky guitar line in the verses and an unforced, excellent chorus. Where once it felt as if Grohl and co patched together a horde of separate ideas to make several average songs, everything here feels in its place. ‘Dear Rosemary’ finishes off a trio that represents the band’s best ever opening to an album – with the abrupt thump of ‘Bridge Burning’ and relatively restrained first single ‘Rope’ starting matters.
Next up, ‘White Limo’ may have the whiff of QOTSA-lite (even down to the primal grunt at the outset) but it’s still good in its own right, injecting some pace into the first half of the record. ‘Arlandria’ and ‘These Days’ both have the air of ‘affable-rock’ that’s plagued the mid-section of the band’s previous output but are far more accomplished songs than the unfocused dross that’s often filled the Foos’ running order before now.
Elsewhere, as most of the planet will know at this stage, Krist Novoselic plays bass on the atmospheric ‘I Should Have Known’, which sounds like a downbeat Bond theme-tune, and in this case that’s a really good thing. Indeed, it ends up being one of the album’s highlights.
Even while the finale – ‘Walk’ – suffers from an unnecessarily cheesy vocal from Grohl it manages to survive with a great deal of credit. Another Foo Fighters crowd pleaser (there’s a hint of ‘Learning to Fly’ toned-down about it), it proves to be a suitable ending. Upbeat, unchallenging and ultimately very enjoyable.