If the record/documentary ‘Sonic Highways’ (a much better documentary than record) showed anything, it is that Dave Grohl’s influences fall between classic rock and the alternative and hardcore scene he was part of. Someone who has an intense love for the Beatles and Hüsker Dü at the same time, balancing the search for yourself with stadium rock. With that in mind, this Wasting Light could be the most Foo Fighter record of them all. What is clear is that this is their best record since The Colour and the Shape in 1997.
Two other main points that define this record are that, on the one hand the lineup is broadened to 3 guitarists by the return of the band’s original guitarist (and also with Nirvana at the end) Pat Smear to the group, and that on the other hand, Grohl decides to go back to the more rugged sound of their first analogue recordings in the garage of his house. Bringing Smear back into the recording studio (he had already been there for the presentation of Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace) gave the band more power and hostility, despite the Foo Fighters not being your typical band that gets stuck on solos, each player plays his part to perfection; Grohl himself takes over the base track with his Gibson Trini Lopez Standard Custom together with drummer Taylor Hawkins, then Chris Shiflett curls in on his Fender Telecaster Custom from ‘62, and Pat Smear rounds off as usual with his baritone Hagstrom, to give a more distinct, harder sound than the other two.
And then , the fact that they chose to record in analogue in Grohl’s garage led to the record being rehearsed live. It was an alleged return to their roots, looking for a raw sound, and scarcely altered, so they turned to Butch Vig who produced Nirvana’s Nevermind, to be their producer. The result is less than clean and crisp, but more energetic than their earlier work, without getting away from sounding a purely professional rock record, more like Led Zeppelin than Bad Brains.
The first track is the abrasive Bridge Burning and then the ‘zeppelinesque’ touches on Rope. The best part comes on Dear Rosemary, a song that pays due tribute to Bob Mould, leader of the cornerstone Hüsker Dü, without whom the explosion of alternative music wouldn’t have happened. However, the most cherished appearance on the album is by Krist Novoselic, (his ex-Nirvana mate) who plays the bass and accordion on I Should Have Known, a song that deals with the pain of Cobain’s suicide. Also on the playlist are Walk, Back and Forth, These Days and Armandria that show how haunting Grohl’s melody is, pure Foo Fighters, their distilled sound, with the last two getting back to the strong/pausing vibe of the Pixies. Meantime, White Limo proves that after all these years and millions of records sold, Grohl still loves the hardcore of his youth.
Wasting Light doesn’t open new roads, but as a return to what they know best, great rock songs with catchy background vocal arrangements, paying debt to their cherished heroes, it is the one that best defines the band. Evidently, when it comes to writing songs, Grohl is not Cobain, nor Mould, but that doesn’t get in the way of his unwavering interest to deliver addictive tunes, that carry a mix of Beatles melody, alternative sound and the strength of stadium rock.