Foo Fighters: Wasting Light (Sony)

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Foo Fighters: These Days
Foo Fighters: Wasting Light (Sony)

There were those who said grunge died when it was adopted by fashion designers, but that presumes those who were into the music actually cared what happened on the catwalks of New York, Milan and Paris.

Certainly the death of Kurt Cobain in '94 dealt the noisy, often angst-filled music a serious blow but none of the bands swept along in the wake of Nirvana's success suddenly went away.

My suggestion would be that you knew grunge in its first incarnation was over with the Foo Fighters video Big Me in '95. Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl had, largely on his own, recorded an album under the name Foo Fighters then -- when it took off -- formed a band. But the clip for the melodic Big Me showed them clowning around, hamming it up and enjoying themselves in a way which was witty but irony-free.

Foo Fighters showed being in band was fun and not just fingernails gripping the edge of a cliff, as Nirvana's music had often been.

Angst was put in its right place and the Foos were here to make big rowdy and melodic rock, but also to enjoy the ride. There's a very early interview with Dave Grohl around this time here, and that comes through clearly.

That the band survived line-up changes and various crises has been remarkable. In the doco Back and Forth released to coincide with this new album Grohl notes other bands go through a shakedown period before they record an album, they did it in reverse. 

And now they are onto their seventh album and, in search of a fresh approach, Grohl decided to record it at home in his garage, with Nirvana's Nevermind producer Butch Vig and using analogue tapes. Just like the old days.

Well, not quite.

As that doco shows this was a very relaxed process: when Bob Mould comes in to record a vocal we see Grohl go for a swim with his daughter in their handsome pool and later listening to the playback with dripping hair.

So it's Vig, mentor Mould, guitarist Pat Smear back in the ranks and, somewhat surprisingly, Niravana bassist Kris Novoselic on the terrific I Should Have Known which Grohl admits was written about many relationships however Cobain's suicide (getting close to 20 years ago) was also in mind when he wrote "I could not forgive you yet".

Other than such a confessional this is very much a standard Foo Fighters album in some ways: massive sound, thriling choruses, memorable melodies, ferocious guitar work, thunderous drumming . . .

And with Vig archetypal quiet-LOUD-quiet-LOUD approach it almost harks back to an earlier time.

That said though, Grohl really does seem like a man in command of his art despite having pulled this band from small clubs to stadiums in the past 15 years.

Tellingly, nothing here breaks the five mnute mark and taut economy is Grohl's hallmark, whether it be in the bristling, throat-searing opener Bridge Burning, the needle sharp riffery (Rope, the nailgun/metal attack of White Limo, the power pop/heavy rock of Back and Forth) or the cinematic scope of I Should Have Known.

And the anthemic Walk right at the end closes this collection on a defiantly optimistic note with what will doubtless be the album's most quoted line, the screamed affirmation "I never wanna die".

This is music made by a band with its eye on stadiums, but it doesn't want for its more intimate moments. That too -- alongside the knowledge life is to be enjoyed not endured -- shows Grohl is one of the smartest players in rock, and he's still taking others along for the crowd-surfing ride.

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