“These are my famous last words!” screams Dave Grohl to open up Wasting Light, which begs the question: Dave, what took you so long to say them? Saturated with regret, pain and blazing guitars, the Foos’ latest is definitely their best since One By One, and maybe even their best since 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. For a band that’s essentially Nirvana’s direct offspring, Grohl’s outfit has skirted the issue of dealing with its origins — until now. Featuring an appearance by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, Wasting Light finally touches upon the tragedy that led to the Foo Fighters’ conception.
Though the album includes one of the best compilations of riffs in recent years, Grohl confronts his demons best in the less guitar-centric final two tracks. In “I Should Have Known,” he tortuously delivers his lines that drip with remorse: “I should have known there was that side of you / Came without a warning, caught me on a web.” Though he cannot forgive the nameless-yet-obvious subject of his pain, the following song “Walk” finds Grohl confessing his personal reconciliation: “I’m learning to walk again / Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?” And, after 17 years, it seems he’s finally putting the residual emotions from Nirvana’s demise to bed.
Despite the anguish apparent on a few of the tracks, Wasting Light is still a head-banger’s fantasy. From the edgy triplet of guitars that begins “Bridge Burning,” the Foo Fighters never let up on the gas pedal. “Rope,” the first single to be released, isn’t too complicated or flashy, but it serves as a piece of wholesome, fundamental rock. The song is also only the second ever to debut at number one on the Billboard Rock Songs chart.
The ensuing “Dear Rosemary” begins with a suave, fluid drum intro, and hints at the heavy themes of death and eternity that pop up unexpectedly throughout the tracklist. That’s not to say that the album is thoroughly dark — “Back & Forth” harkens back to the vintage days of “Monkey Wrench” and “This Is a Call” as an upbeat message of provocation.
As a solid album throughout, Wasting Light has very few flaws. Occasionally, Grohl does revert to senselessly screaming his lines over the instruments, with the most egregious assault on the ears occurring in “White Limo.” However, any experienced Foo Fighters fan will say it’s simply the way he sings — like it or not, the man has his own style. The lyrics are occasionally a bit vague, but that’s also always been part of the appeal, and listeners can interpret a song to best fit their situation.
Aside from rare blemishes, Wasting Light is a promising sign that rock music is still as alive as ever. The Foo Fighters have again established themselves as the defining leaders of their genre. Their latest record has all of the aspects that make a rock masterpiece: fresh, raw guitars, big noise with soothing interludes and the breakthrough of a talented but tortured singer. The Foos have let everything loose, and the result is the best rock album so far this year.