A Grohl-By-Grohl Blow Of The New Foo Fighters EP
Once a ragtag team of punk and grunge heroes combining forces to take their frontman’s highly charged pop songs to a bigger audience, the Foo Fighters have long since made the switch from upper-tier alt-rock band to permanent world beaters. This is a band that now makes their home in the biggest stadium your country has to offer and, naturally, they construct their music accordingly.
They obviously like it up there, throne and all, and who are we to deny them that kind of regular glory-on-tap? So, nowadays they go broad – and we mean real broad – this is the kind of toe-tappin’ rock’n’roll that can put feet to floor from ages 5-100.
Sonic Highways may have been conceptually ambitious – the band travelling from city to city while Dave Grohl interviewed the area’s most pivotal musicians and then slapped some songs together about their experiences, often lending them a guitar a tambourine for a track – but it felt rushed and the songs suffered lyrically in a big way. Released out of nowhere yesterday, the Saint Cecilia EP is the first straight-up blast of unadulterated no-concept Foos for 2015. We dive in, track by track, to see what Dave and co. have been cooking up in the lab.
The title track feels like it’s gonna be the one that becomes the radio hit from this offering. It opens with a classic stuttering guitar and Grohl-only combo, with a tinge of a cheesy blues progression, before being joined by the all the glittering trimmings we’ve come to expect from the full Foo Guitar Orchestra. It’s polished pub rock with a nice uptempo chorus thanks to some snappy cymbal work from Taylor Hawkins for a highly boppable effect. A bonus redneck riff in the closing moments means your drunk Uncle and Aunty really have something to build to when they crank this out on the next wedding dancefloor.
For all the heartfelt ballads they’ve thrust upon us in the past few years, “Sean” boasts real pace, bouncing between a Ramones-like simplicity and genuinely original and complex guitar riff. Unfortunately, it’s given a rather embarrassing guitarmony to close things out; a big garish “Dad Rock” stamp for an otherwise cracking little number.
So Dave Grohl really likes Motörhead. This methed-up, rock’n’roll pound-a-thon is all about distorted vocals and a race to the finish the line, complete with outrageous guitar solos and the bare minimum amount of power chords required for the job. It’s the two-minute punk rock ramraid needed to keep us listening for the rest of the EP.
Finally, ballad time! This is one of their less cringe-worthy efforts in this department and one could assume a fair bit of Neil Young’s back catalogue was absorbed before its construction. It’s pleasant but that’s about it, and losing that dualing guitar solo would have done it a few favours. File this one under “great songs to use in a film montage about a fallen sports star and/or man trying to get his company back”.
“THE NEVERENDING SIGH”
Okay Foo-bros, it’s the last track on this pop-up freebie EP thing – let’s get weird. You’ve got 4.45 minutes to play with so we’re stepping outside of obvious single territory, what you got? Out of a swirl of ominous delay-soaked guitar meandering from speaker to speaker comes the most roaring piece of riffage we’ve heard from them in a good five years. This one also moves at a breakneck pace, but it also has weight to it and a half-time “yeehaw” chorus that makes the eventual return of the opening turbo riff even more exciting. Plus, this time when they decide to turn to the dual (or should we say triple) guitar fury, it’s in a much more tasteful callback to an exciting theme, rather than just more goddamn twiddling for the damn sake of it (“Savior Breath”).
Sonic Highways felt a bit rushed and lyrically very forced. The Saint Cecilia EP feels a little undercooked, like the first ideas they ripped out at rehearsal. That said, spontaneity has its merits and there’s some inspired moments on this release, even if overall it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Devoted fans will find plenty to rejoice in, and for old-school fans that have drifted away a little bit after the Triple M machine gobbled up that thing they liked, it could be worth dipping your toes back in the water. The good new is, another full-length album now boasts some real promise. But please, no more pub rock guitarmonies gentleman, Kurt’s done more than enough grave-spinning this decade.