Listeners can (and do) associate music with just about everything. Whether it’s on purpose or a result of random factors, many times music ends up soundtracking personal memories, seasons, moods, situations, and just about everything else in life. I’m not going out on a limb by making such statements. It’s just that, this past summer, like last summer, one album had gotten more play by me than others. Technically, this summer, that album was probably Take Care, Take Care, Take Care by Explosions In The Sky. But in terms of active listening and soundtracking my summer, it was easily Wasting Light by Foo Fighters.
I like the Foo Fighters. I guess I always have. I just haven’t listened to them very much (if at all) in recent years. That changed with the release of Wasting Light. It took this album to remind me how much I like the band. It’d be easy and cliche to write something like: “This album makes me feel young again!” It would also be lame and incorrect. But more than anything, this album feels familiar. I was 14 when the band’s first album came out, in the summer of 1995. The release of The Colour and the Shape two years later only cemented my love of the band, as I’m sure it did for many, many other listeners.
I caught the band live on that tour. It’s no surprise to me now what a showman Dave Grohl was at that time, despite the gig only having been in support of the band’s second album. The dude had already toured the world behind the kit of another, more famous band. Live is how I first heard the band’s new album. The group played it straight through at the Ed Sullivan Theater earlier this year. Then, as if that weren’t enough, the guys followed the 50-minutes of new material with another near hour-long set of hits. To hear so many of the band’s most popular songs played back-to-back with Wasting Light was the best of all possible ways to first take in this new material. Performed together, as one long set, new songs like “Arlandria” didn’t seem out of place being followed by”Big Me” or “Learn To Fly.”
Wasting Light (thankfully) doesn’t find Foo Fighters trying to further their sound or incorporate new musical styles. The group’s not known for being genre-hopping masters. No, they do one thing and they do it decently well. Since debuting a decade-and-a-half ago, Grohl and company have become known for their driving, post-grunge radio rock sound. More than anything, Wasting Light feels like the resulting well-honed results of five guys who have been at this long enough to know what they want their music to sound like. It’s straightforward rock with that loud/quiet/loud dynamic and generic enough anthemic appeal to make it both commercially popular as well as genuinely meaningful to so many listeners.
From the first 35-seconds of guitar riff on “Burning Bridge,” which opens the album, to Grohl’s catharting-sounding chant of “I never want to die” on the song “Walk,” which closes Wasting Light, the band sounds at their best here. There’s also the band’s typical ordering of songs, which also maybe works to make it feel so familiar, with the album’s slowburner “I Should Have Known” coming second-to-last, a la “X-Static” and “Walking After You.”
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