Thursday, April 21, 2011

Foo Fighters Wasting Light Review

The new Foo Fighters release (it’s been four years since 2007’s Echoes, Patience, Silence and Grace) stays true to its namesake, Wasting Light, a lyric taken from the ninth classic rock track on the album “Miss the Misery.” It’s clearly Grohl and company referencing getting the most out of your days, your life and fulfilling your soul’s genuine desires. Carpe Diem, rockers!

Always looking to shake up the bottle kinetically building for the latest pop explosion, the Foo Fighters made a few dynamic throttle adjustments this time around. 1) They enlisted famed producer Butch Vig (known best for the power-crunch of Niravna’s Nevermind) 2) They added a third guitar to the mix with original Foo Fighters and former Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear (last appeared on Foo Fighters’ second album The Color and the Shape) 3) lastly, the album was recorded not only away from Studio 606, but all analog (remember tape, y’all?) in Dave Grohl’s cloistered garage.

What ensued is an album, which in catalog stature, holds parallel firepower to Green Day’s American Idiot. No, there won’t be a Broadway show, eye make up, or pandemonium driven album sales (that doesn’t actually happen anymore!?), but critically, commercially and perhaps interpersonally, this album revives a band that had become viewed by others (not this guy) as slightly stagnant.

Rock ‘em, sock em’ knob turner Butch Vig did an excellent job straining the Foo Fighters vast recording aspirations to the two or three things they do best. Crunching guitars. Thundering teeth gritting drums. And stadium worthy catchy rock choruses. The K.I.S.S. method never sounded so simple.

I see the relationship between Grohl and Vig during this process being very similar to Lou Brown coaching Willie Mays Hayes in Major League. Stop swinging for the fences, put the ball on the ground and use your God given speed, Wesley Snipes. Pushups for Mays Hayes when a pop up is in the air, split screen, with Dave Grohl rewriting a guitar line that, and to quote Dave Grohl’s impression of Vig, “was not heavy enough.”

This may not be the best album the Foo Fighters have ever recorded, but it’s a straight forward collection of rock songs that when strung together, consecutively, 11-strong, rivals The Color and the Shape. It’s at least in the conversation. A conversation that ends, “can’t you see I’ve waited enough?”

Yes, yes I did. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this album. And thank you.

And now for the song-by-song breakdown for those that like graphic detail...

Bridge Burning

The Foo Fighters are the unchallenged kings of the big, building, exploding showers of confetti rock opener. This is no different. This song breaks structural boundaries, much like a previous off-beat opener they did, “All My Life.” It kind of makes you scratch your head with a deadpan look and say to yourself, “is this a song?” Ha.

I would like to break this down like a classic rock opus as I believe the structure and time changes are astounding. I’m just giddy that this song is on an album. It’s just outrageous!

I: Into (0:0 to 0:45): Sliding guitar riff, huge building drums, absolute bone chilling scream of “these are my famous last words!!!!”

II: The Settle (0:45 to 1:08): As the confetti falls, the band settles into a restless, yet easy going choppy and loose muted riff. Kind of like a star point guard dribbling the ball at the top of the key, reading the defense. You know movement will follow. Unless it’s the KNICKS! HEY-O!!!

III: Uphillage Chant (1:08 to 1:30): This actually has to parts as well. A) Alliteration and repetitive beat chanting like a village of pillagers ransacking a pillage of villagers. B) The village of pillagers charge up the hill as tone and drum beat begin to escalate into a serious trot. Everyone screams and raises their sword.

IV: Pride Stamp (1:30 to 1:41): This just beams with pride. The lyrics are kind of like an ex-lover’s letter of anguish. Dr. G hits you with “whatever keeps you warm at night”, and Taylor echoes the sentiment, followed by a similar “whatever keep you warm inside,” and a building scream.

V: The Chorus (1:41 to 2:10): Yes, this is the chorus. It rings back and forth (pun not intended originally) like a nursery rhyme, like say…”London Bridges.” It’s catchy like you know the tale from your childhood, but actually you’ve never heard it. To top it off, they added a psychedelic backing vocal to make it seem like Pink Floyd is reading Mother Goose.

Reprise opening riff, reprise part A of “The Settle” (2:10 to 2:26)

VI: The Angry (2:26 to 2:38): This is my favorite part of the song. The Foo Fighters move away from “The Settle (reprise)” and become an angry punk band. It’s different than “Uphillage Chant” because it already has the anger and kinetic rock energy from the song. It just kind of punches you in the face with “tell me what’s in it for me/tell me NOW what’s in it for me/nobody’s getting this for free/so tell me what’s in it for MEEEEE!” So delicious.

Reprise “Pride Stamp”, reprise “The Chorus” (2:38 to 3:18)

VII: Gathering the Ashes (3:18 to 3:42): This also has a very visual aesthetic combined with the nursery rhyme alliteration to make a stunning visual of “gathering the ashes”…I dare you to not think of someone picking up the pieces from all the rocking that has taken place in the song. Not to mention there is a ticking clock pace to the whole thing that’s quite unsettling. Even though it sounds good, the frantic pace of gathering the ashes…can only last so long. Like a defusing of a bomb scene. Build, build, build and cut away.

Reprise “The Chorus” (3:42 to 4:05)

VIII: Bridge Burning Montage (4:05 to 4:33): Mainly a mash of “The Chorus” with “Gathering the Ashes”, but it kind of feels like everything you’ve experience throughout the song being flashed at you like a grand finale. Just a bam-bam-bam throwing everything at you. No room for air. Just fireworks. Like an 80’s montage scene in fast forward. John Cusak makes a cameo.

A big rock finish (4:33 to 4:46): Just the classic “Bridge Burning” riff and huge drum outro from Taylor Hawkins wraps this thing up.

I guess it’s safe to say I REALLY like this song. It really is like a sketch comedy movie of songs (like how Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a bunch of sketches tied together for a movie), only not funny…just ROCK.


I covered this song months ago as it was the first single and pretty much ALL I listened to for a month. This one song.

This is the sexiest song on the album. The blend of Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins’ vocals is at their peak of their creation. I’ve been waiting for Dr. G to give Taylor some “Rope” literally, and let him flex those classic rock pipes. This is the best example of why they should do this.

The Rush timing as the song winds up and spins out is uncanny. I also enjoy the drum fill bridge given to Taylor. It’s pretty much a gift to Taylor Hawkins that became a gift to Foo Fighters nation. Everybody wins!

Dear Rosemary

Every band has their influences. I always enjoy listening to a band and then discovering a band that influenced them, because it puts you on a trip of realization like “wow…THIS is where they got THAT from.”

Husker Du is that band for the Foo Fighters. If you’re a Foo Fighter fan, it’s imperative that you listen to a couple Husker Du albums. It will throw you for a trip. Much of the Foo Fighters percussion over the years is pretty much ganked from this band.

That’s why it’s awesome that they got Bob Mould, lead singer of Husker Du, to appear on this song. Grohl has a habit of inviting his idols/friends/colleagues to the studio to jam as a way of fulfilling his dreams as well as making great music. Think Josh Homme, John Paul Jones, Norah Jones, Khaki King, etc.

Again, this really worked incredibly well. Their voices blend together with splendid meticulousness. It just sounds like a couple of guys that enjoy each others’ music having a blast. The fun blasts off the pages and into your headphones. Mould’s backing vocals are grizzled, yet pleasantly poppy. It packs freshness to a Foo Fighters recording that would otherwise require a good set of Tupperware.

Seriously, get out and get some Husker Du, if you learn anything from this experience.

White Limo

Waaaaaaaah wit yo bad self!? That seems to be the chorus. You gotta love that! I also covered "White Limo" in depth in my preview of the album. The greatest thing about this song is it’s an obvious tribute to the first album screamers “Weenie Beenie” and Wattershed.” They were even able to get the verse vocals to sound lo-fi and straight up ROUGH.

This song exemplifies a sound the Foo Fighters have mastered. Before “screamo” became a genre, some bands were actually able to pair screaming and catchy rock in a digestible fashion. It’s remarkable to me in their older songs like “Hey Johnny Park” and “My Poor Brain” how something can be so catchy and easy on the ears and mid-sentence there is a wishbone radiating scream.

White Limo hits this with “WHIIIIIIIIIIIITE LIIIIIIIMMOOOOOOO” or “Allllllllllllllriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight” followed by an incredibly catchy “you got something/you wanna try and buy or sell?” I’m actually not sure what he’s saying. Is this a song about an import/exporter? Costanza!?!?

The vocals are so rough and I haven’t found the exact lyrics printed anywhere. Either way, the video has it right—go find yourself a big white limo and if you can’t find a limo, a Cutlass Supreme would work perfectly. Get yourself a bottle of Jack and go for a drive around until you fly off a cliff i.e. Tounces the Driving Cat.

It may not be the most responsible suggestion, but nothing about this song is for responsible non-rocking adults.


Arlandria is a geographic placename, much like Tribeca in NYC, referring to a specific neighborhood between Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. The song also has a hook that bellows “my sweet Virginia/I’m the same as I was in your arms” which is an exquisite double entendre about this neighborhood in Virginia where he grew up and has nostalgia for, coupled with his mother, Virginia Grohl. Sounds like a great Mothers’ Day present!?

I feel like this song is the unsung hero on this album. It’s quite possibly the best song, although I would like to say I prefer “Bridge Burning” and “Matter of Time”, but this easily could be viewed as a superior cut with the big rock drums and delightfully nostalgic lyrics. In that way, it’s comparable to “Ain’t It the Life” off There’s Nothing Left to Lose, which to me always lurks in the shadows of “Aurora” and “Stacked Actors”, which are often listed #1 and #2 respectively in my personal favorite Foo songs.

When I heard Arlandria as the fifth cut to Wasting Light, I started to believe this could possibly be their best work.

These Days

The opening of this song deke’s you into thinking a ballad is on the way. This is the closest one will get to such “ballad nonsense” on Wasting Light, but it’s a deke after all, and it settles into a nice mid-pace rock song. The tone and sonic darkness make it seem like it’s branded with the black backdrop and white lettered heart of their album 2004 album One by One. Unlike most of that album, the lyrics and hook will burrow right in and make you desire unwillingly to sing-a-long.

I know a band has made a catchy song if I, Ryan C. Zerfas, have a NEED to sing-a-long. Something about this song pulls that same heart chord as “Times Like These” only with an approach more like “Tired of You”, but trading the sharp edge of silence with the serrated edge of somber reprieve.

I can’t help but smile and say…“Yeeeeeah it’s alllllllllllright!”

Back & Forth

This is the worst song on the album. If there is a moment to go grab a beer during the Wasting Light show—this is it! That’s not a bash on this song, but more of a testament to how good the product is as a whole.

I think the verses are incredibly catchy and fun, but once it launches into the chorus, I can’t help but feel I’ve heard this before. In my opinion, “End Over End” and “Resolve” already beat this hook into the ground.

It makes me think of that SNL sketch about Aerosmith where “Crazy”, “Amazin’” and “Cryin’” are all pretty much interchangeable. It’s kind of like that to me.

A Matter of Time

This number storms out of the gate sounding eerily similar to “Bulls on Parade”, but quickly settles into the most uniquely timed song on the album. In many ways, this song reminds me of “Lonely As You” on One By One as it’s a track eight following seven fairly straight forward rock songs. Both songs have awkward time signatures that change pace more than a Girl Talk number and they remain the only two Foo Fighters songs with backing vocal driven choruses. The “ooooooo” and repeating chorus line style backing vocals really takes the spotlight in this number.

The other thing I pick out of this song is another strong influence from their buddy Stewart Copeland and the Police. The “it’s just a matter of time/before/before” actually sounds like MuteMath, who sound like a newer version of the Police. The only thing separating it from said examples is the Grohl/Hawkins heavy metal drum fills, that sprinkle of “Bulls on Parade” from the into like a thundercloud of rock, and, oh yeah, the song ending in a Dave Grohl skin melting scream, “Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!”

I’d like to see Sting do THAT.

Miss the Misery

When you listen to this one you can’t help but feel it’s spinning from an actual record player. I’m not exactly sure how and why. I feel like this is a song that I’d hear and remember the Foo Fighters 10-15 years from now, yet that’s kind of an oxymoron, because they’ve been around for 16 years, but their original stuff sounded nothing like this. Deep breathe. Get all of that?

I believe this to be the fruition of a band that’s been around for a long time paying homage to themselves as a rock n’ roll stalwart. Kind of like Death Proof was a Quentin Tarantino’s tribute to himself, featuring what almost plays out as spoofs of his other movies. This isn’t as blatant and it’s certainly not as intentional. Grohl and Tarantino are at opposite ends of the genuine/cocky barometer, and yet are both loveable in their own way.

However, in an album playing out like a garage sale of Easter colored kids clothes, this is the bamboo antique coffee table in the corner with no tag. Price check…aisle rock?

I Should Have Known

There has been a revolving theme of comparing this album to The Color and the Shape throughout this piece. One thing that separates the albums is the theme of the music. I love TCATS so much, because there seems to be a theme of “love lost”, which is EXACTLY what I have used that album for in the past. It has traveled through time with me in that way. It has that nostalgia. It got me through an extremely difficult time(s).

Wasting Light on the other hand seems to have more of a theme of nostalgia for the past and braving through it to get the most out of everything that’s left. Exactly what you’d expect from an aging band. It’s definitely more upbeat than TCATS, however, it does have a very emotional closing—like any good relationship that has to come to an end.

For this cut, there was a huge reunion at the Grohl residence. Obviously, Butch Vig from Nevermind was already turning the knobs, and Pat Smear shredding the guitars, but that left one piece to complete the package…former Nirvana bassist Krist Novocelic.

What takes place is certainly the most “epic” track on the album. It opens with a string arrangement much like “The Pretender” and carries you on a journey though a gut wrenching, self realization piece about relationships. It certainly brings a poignant side out of Groh’s songwriting you don’t get too often. It’s a real tear jerker.

The biggest Foo Fighters cliché is saying “hey, that song is about Kurt Cobain.” Sometimes even clichés are remotely accurate. I mean, hypothetically, that is the ONLY way to fully complete this reunion?


The Foo Fighters are also sultans of the epic album closer. They really have the lock and key to opening an album huge, setting an early tone and then knowing exactly what it’s going to take to close it. If you look throughout their history…they have this mastered.

Foo Fighters epic album closers in chronological order:

  • Exhausted – A nearly six-minute closer to the self-titled album with a huge instrumental rock finish. It’s like if Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a 200-page children’s book.
  • New Way Home – Takes you through a walk around the boats and the kingdom as you realize you’re going to be “ok.” It employs the “and a little bit softer now” approach finishing with a scream and rock out.
  • M.I.A. – Not heavy, epic or long, however, neither was this album. It does have a beautiful chorus with Grohl screaming “You won’t find me I’m going M.I.A!!!” So, in that way it’s kind of cool, because this album actually says goodbye, folks.
  • Comeback – Probably the best example of an epic finisher totaling almost eight minutes. Often forgotten about, I’m not sure they’ve even played this one live. Ouch. It employs the fade in, near classical guitar bridge, before returning for the big rock finish. It would be a typical Track 4 for a band like Dream Theater, but for the Foo Fighters, it’s the only one of its kind.
  • End Over End/Razor – “End Over End” sounds like a rock out at the end of a Neil Young & Crazy Horse set. Not a bad way to close the “not so soft” side of the double album In Your Honor, and “Razor” works well for the acoustic side as well. It features Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) on guitar and is arguably a song Dave Grohl wrote that made him realize he needed to do a Foo Fighters style orchestra album—much in the way that Bon Jovi can be created with the creation of MTV Unplugged with their “Wanted Dead or Alive” Grammy performance.
  • Home – Dave Grohl channels his inner Norah Jones by closing their “return to eclectic” album with an intimate piano and vocal slow dance.

I bring all this up, because I feel “Walk” breaks this cycle. Nothing about the song says to me “ok, this album is coming to a close.” That point is solidified by its selection as the second single on the album, as well as, easily being the fan favorite by most I’ve discussed with thus far.

It does have similarities to “New Way Home” sonically and lyrically. I love the childhood breeze of “Do you remember the days/we built these paper mountains/then sat and watched them burn.” That reminds me of just about every White Stripes song. So, perhaps, it’s perfect.

It also has the big screaming build, much like the cadence of “The Best of You” with Grohl just shredding his voice with short one liners, repetitively. That DOES give you the feeling of an emotional close.

It just wraps up leaving you craving more. Like at a live show when a band finishes their first encore, but you feel there’s a chance they’ll come back out for a second, but then the house lights come on. It’s sad when “Walk” rings out so quickly, because it’s the house lights for the album. Previously, when Foo albums closed, you KNEW that was it, because there was no topping what you just heard for a finale.

When you think about it “Walk” actually does this job magnificently, and is perhaps the best actual song of all these “epic closers”, but it just doesn’t feel way in the moment. Many times, the deepest impacts happen in reflection and that gives this product a lasting power one cannot deny.

At the dinner table we go for seconds when we’re full. Hey, the food is good, help yourself, right? But in this instance, you leave full, wanting more, yet are light enough on your feet to meet today’s challenges.

That is what Wasting Light is about. Bravo Mr. Grohl!? If you need me, I’ll be going for a “Walk!?”