With the release of this seventh studio album from the Nicest Man In Rock and his sweat-flecked colleagues, there can be no doubt that Foo Fighters have eclipsed the in-their-lifetime success of the outfit that first launched Dave Grohl into the public consciousness. There are fans of this band today who do not own a Nirvana record. The Foos are truly in the highest echelon of the rock hierarchy, their roots so distant as to be almost irrelevant.
However, there are on-paper signs that ‘Wasting Light’ might represent something of a blast from the past, its DNA sharing molecules with previous ventures. Firstly, in the producer’s chair is Butch Vig, the man responsible for giving ‘Nevermind’ the commercial sheen that made it such a smash. Secondly, returning to the fray as an official member is Pat Smear, who last slung a six-string across his chest for the Foos’ second LP, 1997’s ‘The Colour And The Shape’. Then there’s a certain Mr. Novoselic on ‘I Should Have Known’. Add to these acquisitions the fact that ‘Wasting Light’ was recorded using only analogue equipment, and anticipation for a rollicking return to Grohl’s most-mischievous exercises in pop-glossed punk-rock goes into overdrive.
Inevitably, the truth is rather different. While a more focused collection than the muddled brace of 2005’s ‘In Your Honor’ and 2007’s ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’, prioritising consistency over flashes of brilliance, this set feels rather blunted compared to the best of the Foos’ work. There’s no ‘The Pretender’ amongst these tracks, no ‘All My Life’, no ‘Everlong’ – it lacks that killer cut to elevate it from solid to spectacular. Lead single ‘Rope’ is a fair stab at immortality-in-four-minutes, and ‘White Limo’ is a slam-dancer pleasing riff-fest that’ll have the front rows at the band’s stadium gigs throwing limbs; but even after several listens there’s little here to really strike a chord with the long-standing Foos fan. That’s not to say it’s poor – it’s far from that.
It’s just that ‘Wasting Light’ doesn’t develop this great band’s catalogue as it might’ve done given the personnel involved. Chronologically, it could fit neatly after ‘The Colour And The Shape’ – which is a compliment, for sure. It’s a well-designed, well-played, well-presented collection that consolidates its makers’ position as ceremonial masters of the most massive audiences. Every track is geared for sing-alongs. Every chorus could be a T-shirt slogan. But perhaps the time was right for their own ‘In Utero’, rather than what’s unequivocally more of the same.
Words by Mike Diver