I wrote this article almost five years ago, saying that Wasting Light was possibly Foo Fighters’ worst album. I have come to revise that statement.
Wasting Light should be Foo Fighters’ best album. But it’s not. And it’s Dave Grohl’s fault.
The Colour and the Shape is normally considered Foo Fighters best (and breakout) record. It’s full of catchy riffs, clever lyrics, and produced just enough so that it sounds professional but still spontaneous. Back then, Dave was of the Kurt Cobain school of lyrics: songs should tell a story, but that story should be somewhat ambiguous because of cryptic lyrics (“a mulatto / an albino / a mosquito / my libido / a denial” has some nice juxtaposition in connotation, and considering it’s in a song about teenage angst, it could mean any number of things). From this, on The Colour and the Shape, we get lyrics like:
- Doll me up in my bad luck
- Wasting another night on planning my revenge
- Come and I’ll take you under this beautiful bruise’s colors
- Sometimes I feel I get stuck between the handshake and the fuck
- I have a choice between the bat and the belt
- There goes my hero, he’s ordinary
- You ask for walls I build them higher / I’d stand but they’re much too tall
- Breathe out so I can breathe you in / I wonder if anything could ever feel this real forever
- I love this leash that holds me when I try to run away
Now Dave is in the Paul McCartney school of lyrics (“five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, I love you” which is what you sing to your developmentally stagnant child when they ask you to make up a song between “jammy dance” and “night night mickey mouse”). From this, on Wasting Light, we get lyrics like:
- These are my famous last words! / Whatever keeps you warm at night / Tell me what’s in it for me
- You got away got away got away with things
- Shame, shame, go away, come again some other day.
- But it’s alright, yeah it’s alright, said it’s alright, easy for you to say
- You got a lot of nerve / Now I’ll show a little backbone why don’t you.
- I should have known
- Learning to walk again / I’m on my knees, I never wanna die, I’m dancing on my grave
These are just overused proverbs. He might as well be screaming, “A stitch in time saves nine!” or “Shit or get off the pot!” or “If my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle!”
But herein lies the problem. The music on Wasting Light is an order of magnitude better than The Colour and the Shape. On The Colour and the Shape, Grohl was still learning how to play the instruments, so everything was catchy but simple. Listen to any track on Wasting Light, and you’ll hear a wall of sound ranging from four different guitars on top of an accordion to Bob Mould’s backing vocals. It’s pretty amazing what they did with this album. If only they’d stuck with the old Cobain-Ambiguous lyrics, like on this extra track on the deluxe version of Wasting Light:
Breaking the static of life automatic, everyone’s mad about you
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