- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Foo Fighters

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

RCA

Qmagazine recently nominated Foo Fighters for the more than slightly ridiculous award of Best Act in the World.

It’s an excessive title for sure, but nobody seems to have told the band, which remains as confident and energetic as ever. On its newest album, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace,” not only is the confidence there, but so, for the first time in several records, are the songs.

Since 1995, Dave Grohl and his rotating lineup of backing band members have blown through a half dozen albums, a trunk full of top-ranked singles and numerous tour dates and MTV appearances, all the while acting as if “rock star” were a job description that still had something to do with playing music.

While the rest of the music world has devolved into a combination fashion show and teen soap opera, the Foo Fighters have eschewed feuds and scandals and focused on what now seems an antiquated pursuit: bringing the rock.

Mr. Grohl shot to rock stardom as the slam-bang drummer for Nirvana. He may be the last remnant of the grunge era and one of the few to make the transition successfully through the nu-metal craze of the late ‘90s and into the current era, when small-time indie bands dominate what’s left of the rock world.

Mr. Grohl seems keenly aware of his position as a rock elder, and on “Echoes,” he uses it to chide his younger contemporaries. “Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running)” is an obvious, mostly playful dig at youthful acts like My Chemical Romance that have succeeded as much on their carefully crafted images as on the quality of their songs. (The band members affect a dramatic, highly stylized goth look.)

A practitioner of the screech-and-scream school of rock, Mr. Grohl has never hesitated to sacrifice melody for the sandpaper-throated yell. However, the band’s most recent previous album included an entire second disc of acoustic tracks, and “Echoes” follows its lead.

Several songs here — “Stranger Things Have Happened” and “The Ballad of Beaconsfield” — wouldn’t sound out of place at a coffeehouse open-mike night. Tracks including “Come Alive” and “But Honestly” suggest something like patience, even maturity, going through several deceptively gentle verse-chorus cycles before unleashing the band’s signature fuzz and grit.

This is not to say that the Foo Fighters have lost their edge — if anything, they’ve regained some of their early fire. Re-teaming here with producer Gil Norton for the first time since 1996’s “The Colour and the Shape,” the band reaffirms its reputation as a full-throttle rock outfit, capable of churning out glossy, near-perfect power-chord anthems that are as fierce as they are memorable. It’s that combination of punk-rock fury and top-40 catchiness that has made the band so potent for so long.

Mr. Grohl and his band mates have honed rock stardom into something approaching a science. It’s a formula, sure, but the way to enter the running for Best Act in the World isn’t to shock listeners with something strange — it’s to find what works and keep on doing it well.

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