Grohl and Co. Dig Out the Flannel Shirts and Clean Up the Garage

Foo Fighters
Wasting Light
RCA

Despite his age, Dave Grohl doesn’t act like your typical Cristal-and-coke-in-the-limo veteran rock star. Even after 17 years with his hugely popular Foo Fighters, it’s difficult to imagine the goofy, wide-eyed 42-year-old trailblazing ’90s grunge in one of the most legendary rock bands of all time.

And while the half-serious persona has allowed Grohl to operate outside Nirvana’s impossibly wide shadow, his attempts at meaningful, sophisticated songwriting (i.e. Foo Fighters’ last three albums) have consequently felt forced, preachy and far too often, dull.

On Wasting Light — Foo Fighters’ self-proclaimed back-to-basics album — the band embraces the ramshackle adolescence of their early recordings, churning out 11 tracks of direct and infectious pop rock.

It’d be easy to mistake Wasting Light for a debut effort. Recorded with analog equipment in Grohl’s garage, the production is humble and raw. Grohl appears hyper-focused on delivering hard-hitting riffs (the urgent strumming of opener “Bridge Burning”) and sweaty, teenage anthems (the head-banging Jovi-esque closer “Walk”).

Grohl’s vocals, no longer crisp and larger than life, float in a damp and intimate choral mix, recalling the fever-dreaming college rock of 1997’s breakthrough The Colour and the Shape.

When he isn’t busting a lung on instant Foo classics like catchy-as-hell “Back and Forth” and the surprisingly poignant “These Days,” Grohl flips through his ’90s yearbook of rock influences — everything from SoCal hardcore punk on “White Limo” to devastating Pixies loud-quiet-loud on “Arlandria.” In this homage, the Foo Fighters finally feel at peace, freed from the shackles of major label expectations, playing only what they know and so obviously love.

It’s a difficult feat for any mainstream band to tap into not only the sound, but also the songwriting mentality, that managed to turn heads almost two decades ago — and on Wasting Light, the Foo Fighters seem to be having a hell of a time doing just that. (8/10)

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