"These are my famous last words," declares Dave Grohl at the opening of the Foo Fighters' highly anticipated seventh album, on the song "Bridges Burning." Surely rather than the beginning of the end, however, Wasting Light marks a return to the Foo Fighters' roots. It has been four years since the group's last record, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, and 14 years since former Germs and Nirvana guitarist Pat Smears' astonishing ax-work was showcased on a Foo Fighters' album, 1997's The Colour and the Shape. (Smear departed the band shortly after its release, though he has made sporadic live appearances with them since.) But now the Foo Fighters are a three-guitar band again, and as such, they have stepped back closer to their original sound, even down to the way in which the album was recorded with producer Butch Vig (Garbage, Nirvana): analog, the old-school way. The most obvious evidence of the album's throwback direction are the songs "Dear Rosemary" and "Back and Forth," which display the sort of early post-grunge sound Dave Grohl first sought out to achieve with the band. On these tracks, choruses are sung with both vulnerability and confidence, and the three guitars mesh into one yet stand out on their own, while Taylor Hawkins' ever powerful drumming drives the songs home, all reminding the longtime fan why they embraced the Foo Fighters in the first place.
And yet Wasting Light is not without its surprises, not least of which is the three-quarter Nirvana reunion on "I Should Have Known," which features Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic playing not only bass but also accordion. It's a beautiful ballad that confirms Grohl's willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve and do so with no apologies. In contrast, "White Limo" is the most metal track on here, and one of the most metal Foo Fighters' songs ever. The heavily distorted vocals and extremely catchy hook will have any headbanger randomly screaming out loud, "Rahhhh white limo!" The video, meanwhile, is an homage to the classic Foo Fighter days of "Big Me" and displays the band's signature sense of humor—plus Lemmy's in it, too!
In all, Wasting Light is almost a summation of where the band has been, as well as a convincing statement of why, nearly 20 years since they came together, Grohl & Co. are yet a force to be reckoned with, still influential and still relevant. The Foos may still be fighting, but really, the battle is already won. SARAH B. KOENIG