Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

I can tell you that I, at least, didn’t see it coming. I mean, who’d have thought that from what was once the biggest rock trio in the world, the member who’d go on to the most enduring, maybe even most influential rock stardom would be…the drummer? The hell? I mean, there’re a few erstwhile Seattle scene folks I would’ve easily pegged as stepping out and into mega-mega-stardom (Chris Cornell, what the hell happened?), but Dave Grohl? Nah. If you’d told me that back in the early ’90s, I’d have laughed in your face.

And yet, here we are. I don’t know how it happened, but as of full-length number six, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, the Foo Fighters are to me the archetype of the flat-out rock band, minus any paltry hyphenations. Against all odds, Foos headman Dave Grohl has turned out to be one of those damn guys who’s good at everything, whether he’s playing drums, rocking out on the guitar, roaring at the top of his lungs, or writing these gloriously memorable rock anthems. Which, incidentally, have got to be Grohl’s specialty — he seems constitutionally incapable of writing anything that’s not a fire-in-the-eyes, fist-pumping barnburner.

Even the “quiet” songs on here are only really masquerading, for the most part — look at “Let It Die,” “Come Alive,” “But, Honestly,” or “Stranger Things Have Happened,” all of which start off with gentle, almost delicately clean, finger-picked guitars and build in this awesomely organic, uncontrived way to a blistering crescendo. The quiet’s just the calm before the storm, apparently, whichever way you go. And to Grohl’s credit, those exploding guitars, pounding drums, and bitterly angry vocals get me right in the chest every damn time.

Actually, the bit about the singing’s a little unfair, really. While Grohl’s throaty, shredded-but-still-in-tune howl definitely features prominently on Echoes, he in fact tones it down quite a bit on several of the tracks. There’s the jaw-dropping, Springsteenian “Long Road to Ruin,” which does rootsy rock better than anything I’ve heard in a half-decade or so, aside maybe from Lucero or Blackpool Lights, the band kicking through Midwestern dust like it always belonged there and was only waiting for a chance to return. The rootsy sound pops up now and again through the rest of the album, to boot, like on the ’70s-sounding “Statues” or on “Summer’s End.”

Then there’s “Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running),” the title of which reads at first glance like a cheeky slap at the Fallout Boys and My Chemical Romances of the world. Got no clue if that’s really the point of the song, but the “bop-bop-bop”-sounding guitar rhythms and over-the-top poppy melody makes me not give a damn in the slightest. Oddly, the comparison that leaps to mind for this particular track is to the legendary Hüsker Dü, with the near-flawless mix of catchy melodicism and distorted guitar fury (and I swear, it’s got nothing to do with the album’s title, even if I keep thinking of “Charity, Chastity, Prudence, And Hope”…).

I can’t get away without mentioning “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners,” which is a sweet, limber, Appalachian-sounding bit of guitar (played both by Grohl and guest guitarist Kaki King, apparently) that comes off like the sound of a forgotten river rushing through the mountains. Of course, for me part of the fascination’s to do with the backstory — according to Grohl, when trapped miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell were finally found alive, buried deep inside the earth, one of the things they requested was the Foo Fighters’ music to keep them company while they were being rescued. Grohl reportedly wrote the song before meeting one of the rescued miners, as a tribute. Call me a sap if you will, but heck, that gets to me.

The album ends, fittingly, on a soaring, uplifting note, with Grohl playing piano and singing soulfully about coming home, in off the road. After the ride so far, you can almost get his meaning — selfish as it sounds, though, I can only hope he doesn’t decide to just sit back and stay there, at least not for a good long time. Sorry I doubted you, man.

[Foo Fighters are playing 1/22/08 at Toyota Center, with Jimmy Eat World & Against Me!.]
(Roswell/RCA Records -- 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY. 10022-3211; http://www.rcarecords.com/; Foo Fighters -- http://www.foofighters.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, January 18th, 2008. Filed under Reviews.

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