Rock is back, and it’s about fucking time. Wasting Light is exactly the kick-start needed to jolt the genre back to life in an era when hairstyles lead to record deals and guitar solos are in critical danger of disappearing forever in exchange for hazy fuzz and a general sense of disaffection. Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters come across as demon-possessed men on a mission this time round, bringing their stadium sound back to the garage, making for a scruffy and dangerous record with manic energy to spare.
Wasting Light sounds like the work of a band with something to prove, rather than the work of one of the biggest rock bands in the world. And while Foo Fighters output has been impressively consistent since their inception in 1995, this album feels reinvigourated and important, as if everything were riding on it. Gone are the trumped up arrangements of 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace; gone are the dichotomized concepts of 2005’s two-disc experiment In Your Honour. Wasting Light – which marks guitarist Pat Smear’s first album since The Colour And The Shape – is a high-wire act with razor-sharp precision.
Grohl could easily have led his band in a completely different direction, constructing his songs with built-in reverb and easily chanted choruses (like Kings Of Leon have been known to do). Certainly no one could have scoffed if a stadium band made another stadium album. But Wasting Light is a gamble: the work of a garage band battling room noises on analogue tape, brushing aside the computers entirely, and opting instead to mix by ear the old-fashioned way. The result is perhaps the most exciting and hard-hitting mainstream rock ‘n’ roll album since the turn of the century.
Bridge Burning begins the album with disjointed, angular guitar jabs before Grohl unleashes his trademark gravelly scream: “These are my famous last words!” With that, the mood is set from the outset: caged, thrashing aggression fighting for space with infectious hooks. And Foo Fighters never let up, turning in one of the most evenly balanced efforts of their careers. Lead single Rope opens with a false sense of calm, a red herring delay effect on the guitar. “Give me some rope, I’m coming loose,” Grohl sings. “I’m hanging on you.”
White Limo – the video for which features Lemmy Kilmister – is rock ‘n’ roll at its most macho; Grohl’s voice sounds stretch to its sonic limits over riffs that call up imagery of repeatedly smashing one’s Trans Am into a brick wall. This is music that could put hair on the chests of budding hipsters the world over, if only they would take a break from waxing their blond mustaches.
On Miss The Misery, Grohl screams in anguish: “I never want to die.” Despite moving at potentially disastrous speeds, Foo Fighters have managed to keep their wheels spinning for nearly two decades, consistently turning in records that define their genre in its place and time. Wasting Light is no exception, and it could just be the shot heard round the world to get rock back into the equation.