Foo Fighters didn’t need to release a great album this year. Drummer Taylor Hawkins said it himself in a recent interview, “…nobody ever listens to whole records anymore, unfortunately.” Another “Best of You” or “Pretender” would have been enough to satisfy fans and propel the band back onto the modern-rock charts for a few weeks.
Instead, Foo Fighters released Wasting Light, which took examples of everything they’ve ever done right as a band and molded it all into one fantastic album. That being said, its release fittingly coincides with screenings of “Back and Forth,” a documentary based on the band’s storied history. In many ways, Wasting Light is the album Foo fans have been waiting to hear. It is by far their freshest and most kickass collection of songs since 1997’s The Colour and the Shape.
The year 1997 also happened to be the last time guitarist Pat Smear, who was a brief and former member of Nirvana, collaborated on a Foo Fighters album. His reintroduction as a full-time member of the band adds a noticeable layer of depth, complementing both the lead and rhythm sections. Chris Shiflett and Dave Grohl round-out the trio of guitars, delivering a consistent mix of pleasing melodies and delicious riffs.
As expected, Taylor Hawkins retains his reputation as being one of today’s great modern rock drummers, and if you listen through a good pair of headphones, you’ll be carried away by Nate Mendel’s supremely underrated bass lines that will take you places the guitars never thought to go.
Fantastic production quality is one of Wasting Light’s greatest assets, due in part to Butch Vig, former producer of Nirvana, who managed to record the entire album from Dave Grohl’s garage, using only analogue equipment. Having been recorded on tape, its sound retains amazing warmth and tone in all its furious energy and is a pleasure to the ears at any volume.
The obvious highlight on Wasting Light is a guest appearance by Krist Novoselic on the song “I Should Have Known.” His presence completes the Nirvana reunion for what is arguably the best song on the album. As the intensity builds, Novoselic chugs away at his distorted bass while Grohl screams “No I cannot forgive you yet.” It’s hard not to imagine this song being about Kurt Cobain.
As epic as this reunion is, Wasting Light is not a tribute album to Nirvana. If anything, it’s a nod to the Foo Fighters’ earlier days and proves that what made them great 15 years ago is what continues to make them great today. Songs like the wild screamer “White Limo” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on their self-titled debut.
It’s also clear that Grohl’s time behind the drum kit of supergroup Them Crooked Vultures has gone a long way to rejuvenating his creativity. If you’re familiar with TCV, you’ll feel some subtle influences, particularly of singer Josh Homme, on Wasting Light. The chorus vocals on album opener “Bridge Burning” and the guitar hooks in the addictive first single “Rope” have a slightly Vulture-esque vibe to them, but don’t give up their Foo Fighters identity.
If there’s one thing the Foo Crew has been knocked for in recent years, it’s that they’ve strayed too far from their roots. Although their live shows have largely remained high-octane rockfests, fans found their albums were letting go of their fun and reckless style in exchange for a more mature sound. Wasting Light, however, puts these complaints to rest. This is a refreshingly consistent listen, overflowing with the energy and charisma of old-time Foos as well as the catchiness of their latest hits.
The verdict: 9.0/10
Trial track: “Rope”