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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If I had graded this when I first got it, it would have received 5 stars. But given time, it is just off some of their earlier releases. I still highly recommend this cd though.
Dave Grohl and the rest of the band continue to mature as musicians and songwriters and it is nice to listen to them through the years as they continue on their journey.
So, don't be shy about getting this one if you haven't purchased it already. You can't go wrong with this.
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."
The first instant playback for me was "Let It Die." Since listening to the CD all the way through several times, I've gone back and re-played this one over and over again. LOVE IT! Now, I've got this song under my skin in the best of ways. (Unlike some of the other comments, I don't even mind Dave's build up to his trademark screeching at the end. He's entitled.) ;) This track is uniquely Foo.
"Stranger Things Have Happened" instantly reminded me of a song called "Donkey Jaw" from America's debut album (sans America's vocal harmonies, and their building, electric guitar ending). I loved, loved that raw, quirky, layered acoustic guitar arrangement and very basic percussion from America and love it even more from the updated Foos. Unplugged, raw, pure. "But Honestly," also has a lot of America's acoustic guitar influence. (Not a bad thing to have. If you don't believe me, give America (America) a listen, before the band went pop. It's a classic.)
"The Pretender" and "Erase/Replace" gave me instant FF gratification.
"Come Alive" starts out sounding like a Duncan Sheik tune, but be patient. It morphs into being 100 percent, hard edged Foo.
The short, fast-paced, finger-flying instrumental called "The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners" also reminded me of another brilliant acoustic guitar performance, Lindsey Buckingham's "Big Love (Live)." Musical talent again pours out of this one. I'd love to see this one performed live. (Gives me chicken skin just thinking about it.)
These were the standout tracks for me.
Very honorable mentions: "Statues" is simply a very cool song. "Home" was earlier compared to a Neil Young performance. I would agree. Very nicely done. The remaining tracks are rock and ballads from another time, and they are growing on me.
Yet, I keep returning to Track 2 (and now to Track 6).