Very rarely does a band fully encompass the genre of rock without any accent of a sub-genre to flair their sound, and very rarely does a band ever do it so damn well as the Foo Fighters. Though in previous years there was a slight pop lean in some songs (most notably with singles such as "Learn To Fly"), on this album, the Foo Fighters are catering to no audience other than their own passion for music. Wasting Light delivers a straight set of dominating guitars, charged vocals, and percussive beats that drive the album's relentless energy from start to finish. While previous albums have been recorded around an ongoing change of lineups for the band, this seventh LP presents itself with a confident roster of Foos, and is the first album recorded since the return of original guitarist Pat Smear. With this compilation of talent and experience, the overall sound achieves a very completed feel. Any hint of a pop safety net has been released, and it simply lets the guitars eat the album alive to great effect. It lacks nothing if not for perhaps a quintessential radio hit, but it's clear when you listen to Wasting Light that this is not what this album was made for. At this stage in any band's career, many often try to reinvent themselves in order to gain a larger diversity of success. With Wasting Light, it's clear that the Foo Fighters don't need to prove anything to anybody; they're just showing us what they do best.
The album opens with an anxious guitar introduction in "Bridge Burning", which bursts through level after level of added instruments until an absolute wall of sound comes at you, all leading up to Grohl's signature roar, for which he sings "These are my famous last words". It seems a bold start, but essentially is a warning for the thrills to come, as the rest of the album lives up to this strength. The remainder of "Bridge Burning", as well as the second track and first single "Rope", are heavily guitar-dominated tracks, for which the vocals appear to be an accompaniment rather than the focus. In "Dear Rosemary", however, Grohl's distinct voice shifts and become clearer, matching the particular rhythm of the guitar. This approach doesn't last long, however, as one grungy guitar on "White Limo" meets it's dark and frantic counterpart, coming together for the most high energy song on the album.
With "Arlandria", the band switches gears and returns to more of their classic sound that favors a catchy chorus as much as undeniable guitar hooks. Grohl exposes the melodic talent of his vocals along with his ability to scream out passionate expression on this track, especially during a particularly memorable moment during the bridge when the song breaks down to a singular guitar and deep bass. At this point, attention is focused on the chilling whispers of "Shame, shame, go away / Come again another day", followed by "Close your eyes, turn around / Help me burn this to the ground", and further lyrics that build with as much dark intensity as the rising pitch of the guitars. The following track, "These Days", appears to facilitate softer elements, but the drums and echoing guitars kick in with the crisp fusion that comes when a rock song expertly explores a more melodic base. Songs "Back and Forth" and "Miss the Misery" have a heavier drive to their beats, and are just more examples of the Foo Fighter's perfected ability to base each song around a simple, yet effective, hook.
In addition to "Arlandria", the most stand-out tracks on the album are "A Matter of Time", "I Should Have Known", and "Walk". "A Matter of Time" holds much of the flawless rock that is essential for the Foo Fighters, but also contains moments that possess interesting inflections similar to that of The Beatles. "I Should Have Known" is hands-down haunting. There are expressively deep elements behind the vocal pain and instrumental translation of an unsolved issue, creating a unique track among the heavier bangers. Despite all of the frenzied and often sinister-based passion throughout the entire album, it seems that the band travels to the furthest point of darkness on this particular cut. And though at times it may provide the quietest moments on the album, they also remain the most powerful.
Many artists leave the final track on an album to provide a symbolic and musical shift, whether to wrap up the album's journey or signal the next step for the band. However, such a defined approach often becomes obvious and cheapens the attempt. With the last song on Wasting Light, "Walk", the Foo Fighters take this chance, and down to every chord and line of the song, they successfully achieve an air of completion and resolution that so many artists crave to express but fail to fully deliver. It is driven by clear and hopeful guitars, containing enough spark to compile a successful transition. Definitely the most poignant aspect of the song (and perhaps the entire album) would be the lyrics during the bridge, which build with the varying repetition of lines "I'm on my knees, I'm praying for a sign / Forever and ever, I never want to die". These heartfelt proclamations continue as the melody soars, the guitars brighten, and the energy picks up with seamless effort, making for an overwhelming exit.
Dave Grohl knows what he's talking about. Just as he proclaims in the final moments of Wasting Light, it is clear that, thanks to an abundance of talent and a nearly unrivaled ability to translate pure emotion into exacting instrumental expression, the Foo Fighters have achieved a level of immortality that is rare in this age of modern rock.