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Dave Grohl and his post-Nirvana stadium mainstays Foo Fighters return, with an album recorded in Grohl's garage.
As a teenage rock fan in the mid ‘90s, there was a time when it felt like Dave Grohl could do no wrong. Certainly, to step out from behind the drum kit following the demise of the most important band of the decade and release a pair of records as convincing as the first two Foo Fighters LPs is a still-unequalled feat.
While the Foo Fighters’ eponymous debut was a fuzzy pop masterpiece, The Colour And The Shape defined the sound of mainstream rock for the generation that followed it. But that was way back in 1997. Arguably, The Nicest Guy In Rock’s most substantial work in the years since has been committed to tape while pounding the drums under the dark auspices of Mr Joshua Homme.
Over the past decade, the Foos have filled arenas and stadiums off the back of a killer live show and radio friendly, unit-shifting singles, but all the while, the story of their studio output has been one of diminishing returns and too much MOR filler. Then at the tail end of last year, reports began to surface that suggested things could be different this time around. With Pat Smear back in the fold, Butch Vig manning the desk in Grohl’s garage, and even a cameo by Nirvana’s bass giant Krist Novoselic, this had to be a great rock record, right?
Straight off the bat, Wasting Light is harder than anything the band have made for years, but crucially it’s not so heavy as to alienate the fans who reach over and turn up the radio when the DJ spins Times Like These. Indeed, Vig’s all-analogue production job is more than bright and shiny enough to keep the band’s footing steady on mainstream radio playlists, suggesting that Dave Grohl’s garage studio is considerably better equipped than most.
The likes of White Limo and Rope are unqualified successes - diamond-sharp hard rock comets and the sound of a group of musicians having more fun than they’ve had in years. But perhaps that’s the problem; it’s probably unreasonable of us to expect a group of well-adjusted 40-something millionaires to channel the hunger, angst and dysfunction that have so often been necessary in order to elevate rock music into the realms of great art.
While Wasting Light could never be an In Utero or a Songs For The Deaf, it’s still a fun, well-crafted - if at times a little throwaway - modern rock album that sees a group of wily old pros give the kids down at the front a big stack of riffs to pogo along to. Those of us now hitting our thirties wanting to hear another Everlong or No One Knows might be better off getting our kicks elsewhere. Chris Vinnicombe