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Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Foo Fighters’ sixth studio album is a transitional rather than definitive piece of work, but one that sees them growing older with 'patience and grace'.
Peter Murphy, 26 Sep 2007
In Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age rock fable Almost Famous, the Lester Bangs character advises cub journalist William Miller to pitch his Stillwater profile to Rolling Stone’s Ben Fong-Torres as a think piece on a mediocre band straining to achieve greatness. Watching that film again recently I couldn’t help but think of Foo Fighters – not because they’re a mediocre band, but rather their career arc bears out an intrinsically All-American will-to-power work ethic: honest long-haired johns busting their humps to rise above the ordinary.
If the Foos’ one-man-band debut was a modest but promising affair, the 1997 follow-up The Colour & The Shape saw Dave Grohl pull out all the stops, abandon the original sessions, retrack the drums himself and employ one-time Pixies producer Gil Norton to play drill sergeant. It paid off in spades, yielding a set of songs equal to the Herculean performances.
Again, following the patchy One By One album a few years back, the band staged a mini-intervention, hauled themselves up by their bootstraps and conceived of the In Your Honor double set as a Physical Graffiti style magnum opus. The result played like a speeded up Rocky Balboa training sequence, with the quartet audibly psyching themselves towards a two-hour victory lap. Earlier this summer, the band’s Live Earth set seemed a calculated attempt to reprise Queen at Live Aid; watching ‘There Goes My Hero’ light up Wembley, I pitied the fools who had to follow them onstage.
So it goes with Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Norton has been reinstated behind the desk, and the band show no sign of slacking. The opening tune and lead-off single ‘The Pretender’ is prime Grohl beef: a ‘Stairway To Heaven’/‘Dream On’ intro detonated by a crushingly tight rhythm track, wailing lead lines and take-no-prisoners chorus. That the tune is a self-conscious rewrite of ‘All My Life’’s eruptive dynamics and Beavis & Butthead riffs doesn’t render it any less gratifying. Foo Fighters are the thinking man’s bonehead stadium band, Kiss fronted by Bob Mould. At least half the tunes on ESP&C repeat this formula, including ‘Let It Die’, ‘Erase/Replace’ and ‘Long Road To Ruin’, the latter being the kind of furrowed-browed but feelgood melody Grohl can seemingly knock off in his sleep, reinforced by arena-scaled chord changes and the class of slick guitar solo Mike Campbell used to embellish Tom Petty’s finer tunes.