As a junior high student learning guitar, I enjoyed spinning my portable CD player with headphones enveloping me like ear muffs and imagining that I was playing in a band in front of all my friends. Every night as slumber quietly arrived, my eardrums bounced to the melodies of my favorite bands. Though my comrades never knew it happened, the guitar riffs impressed them – I’m pretty sure.
As my mastery of guitar increased, my stage presence in my dreams took the performance to another level. In two words, rock star. In order to achieve maximum rock-star-ness, I needed to spin upbeat records with loud guitars. Sadly, the Foo Fighters’ new record, Wasting Light did not exist in my teen years.
With solid songs and high energy, Wasting Light is an enjoyable record, but, to me, it feels like an album I would have enjoyed more as a teenager.
Life and Death
Focusing on the theme of maximizing the time left on earth in the face of death, Wasting Light gives the Foo Fighters another well-made record.
Despite Dave Grohl’s questionable use of cliché in his lyrics, the content on the album neither adds nor subtracts from the listening experience.
“Rope,” the first single on the record, illustrates both the clichés and the themes of wasting life as death awaits.
“This indecision got me climbing up the walls / I’ve been cheating gravity and waiting on the falls / How did this come over me, I thought I was above it all / Our hopes gone up in smoke, swallow your crown.”
In the closing track, “Walk,” Grohl switches lyrical direction. Where the first ten tracks focus on impending death and fear of misusing life, “Walk” triumphantly proclaims the trampling of death. Grohl sings,
“Now! / For the very first time / Don’t you pay no mind / Set me free, again / To keep alive, a moment at a time / That’s still inside, a whisper to a riot / The sacrifice, the knowing to survive / The first decline, another state of mind / I’m on my knees, I’m praying for a sign / Forever, whenever, I never wanna die / I never wanna die / I never wanna die / I’m on my knees, I never wanna die / I’m dancing on my grave / I’m running through the fire / Forever, whenever / I never wanna die / I never wanna leave / I’ll never say goodbye / Forever, Whenever / Forever, Whenever.”
While the rest of Wasting Light focuses on fear and regret, “Walk” tauntingly suggests that the future is a brighter place.
This One Goes to Eleven
Musically, Wasting Light is a guitar record. From the very first aggressive riff, it is evident that Grohl’s many collaborations with rock n’ roll’s elite have influenced his songwriting. In fact, “White Limo” sounds as if it fell out of the Motörhead song library.
In terms of songwriting, Pitchfork Media suggests – and I couldn’t agree more – that Dave Grohl is the modern rendition of Tom Petty – churning popular working-class rock tunes.
As I mentioned earlier, my teenage self would have eaten this album for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The guitar riffs are aggressive, but, not too technical. And most importantly for a young guitarist just beginning on the electric form of the instrument, the tunes consist of plugging in the guitar and playing. Aside from some tremolo opening the song, “Rope,” Wasting Light turns the amps to eleven and lets the chords ring.
This Foo Fighters’ release provides another consistent staple in their discography. The songs are listenable and the energy is infectious. However, the simplicity in the lyrics and musicianship keeps this record from true greatness. While Wasting Light does not offend me in any way, I find it difficult to recommend.