Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
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Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
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Having commemorated their tenth anniversary with a year-plus run commencing with In Your Honor (a double album the New York Times called an "unexpected magnum opus"), sold out rock arena shows and a toned down intimate theater trek, and a headlining gig at London's Hyde Park for a crowd of 85,000, the question looms larger than any in the Foo Fighters' career to date: What do they do for an encore?!? The answer comes in the form of "The Pretender," the first single from the band's sixth studio album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, out on Roswell/RCA. Produced by Gil Norton, who last worked with the band on 1997's double-platinum The Colour and The Shape (recently reissued in deluxe 10th anniversary form), Dave Grohl, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Chris Shiflett have crafted a 12-track milestone that showcases and reconciles the band's every strength and sensibility in the most complex and confident Foo Fighters album to date.
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In 1997, Foo Fighters teamed with alt-rock production cornerstone Gil Norton to make their best album, The Colour and the Shape. Ten years later, they've regrouped with Norton for a disc that's more sophisticated and diverse, if a tad less rockin'. The curveballs include "Stranger Things Have Happened," a solo soul-searcher where leader Dave Grohl's accompanied by just his acoustic guitar and a ticking metronome, and "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners," an acoustic guitar duet for Grohl and guest virtuoso Kaki King. Plus "Summers End" tickles the Foos' classic-rock fetish with a dead-on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young arrangement. There's still enough of the intense, snarling power-pop that's Foo Fighters' longtime forte. "The Pretender," "Erase/Replace," and "Long Road to Ruin" combine sheer thrust, zeal, and melody like no other group currently on the charts. Yet the finale, "Home," makes its clear that this is a changed band--or, at least, that Grohl's a changed man. With only his piano for company, Grohl's pleading voice reveals fragile layers of insecurity and loneliness as he sings "all I want is to be home." Seems this rock & roll road warrior's mellowed some, albeit without compromising Foo Fighters' vitality. --Ted Drozdowski
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While it's easily more solid throughout than the longer "Honor," there isn't quite a "Best of You" here. Some songs full of potential for greatness are let down by a rather bland chorus, and repetition of lyrics is another problem in places. Even some of the more consistent tunes are nearly spoiled by outros that don't quite seem to end things on a high note.
"The Pretender" sports the standard-issue aggressive Foo chorus, but the delayed gratification makes it better, thanks to a great 90-second build-up. "Let It Die" isn't the first or last song here that goes quiet-to-loud, but the start-and-stop path along the way makes this one stand out. Unfortunately, Dave's primal screams seem a bit forced at the end here, as the music doesn't quite match the ferocity of the vocals. "Erase/Replace" is a heavier, sober, inconsistent number.
"Long Road to Ruin" is an addictive pop-rock number that's fairly straightforward, but a lot of fun. A nice change of pace made even better by one of the band's best guitar solos. One of those Foo songs that makes you glad to be alive. "Cheer Up Boys" is another uptempo rocker that lightens things up after another pair of slower, disappointing songs in "Come Alive" and "Stranger Things Have Happened."
"Summer's End" is a laid-back, bouncy sing-along that shows off the diversity of the band's sound (think "Good Day Sunshine"), and another great guitar solo. But it'll probably be a puzzler for the more old-fashioned Foo fan. The instrumental "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners," while pleasant, isn't quite as adventurous as it could've been.
"Statues" is part 1 of an excellent 1-2 climax, and possibly the best track here: sweeping, evocative, and moving. The band pulls out all the stops here with an orchestral background, accordion, two delicate guitar solos, and a piano utilized so well it makes you wish they'd use it more often. "But Honestly" follows it up with the final, and most cathartic, use of the album's acoustic-to-electric motif. Great interplay on vocals from both Dave and Taylor, followed by fun, out-of-left-field guitars and drums to finish things out.
"Home" is a simple, somber epilogue, heavy on piano but also with some drums and strings in the second half (though guitars would be a welcome addition). The lyrics are rather straightforward, and perhaps a bit too reminiscent of Lennon's "In My Life."
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