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Foo Fighters change formula, still succeed

Stephanie DePrez | Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Why mess with a good thing?

If your sound is great and your chemistry perfect, why not just chug out the same old stuff that always works? Well, apart from the fear of channeling the Britney Spears method of music production, one might deviate from the golden standard because there is, indeed, something better to achieve. This is exactly what the Foo Fighters prove with their new studio album, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.”

Dave Grohl has come a long way. Ever since his days as Nirvana’s drummer, he has been working hard to make great music. After Kurt Cobain died, Grohl started developing the Foo Fighters. And in 1995 a full band was established. Though there have been multiple drops and new additions to the band, the basic concept has stayed the same – post-grunge with catchy melodies.

The Foo Fighters popularity spans over a decade and spreads worldwide. The band’s sound can pretty much sum up all the good rock from the early millennium that hasn’t been indie, emo, or, well, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Foo Fighters have become quintessential life-rock. With its new album, the group seems to tip its hat to a generic sound, while taking on a more mature exploration of the band’s ability. The Foo Fighters are still there, but so is something new.

“Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” opens with “The Pretender” in classic Foo Fighters-form. A driving guitar and powerful drums announce the arrival of this new Foo era. Think of it as this album’s “Times Like These.” Be sure to pack it for that late night drive with the windows down. Don’t be fooled, though, because “Let It Die” and “Come Alive” (irony at its best) come out of nowhere. These tracks each begin with about two minutes of acoustic preparation before the booming electric instruments come blasting in. They are built on the formula of the classic build-up, and culminate in a rousing chorus of angst. It is quite a treat to hear a song go from plucky guitar to all-out screamo. Only the Foo Fighters could pull it off.

Songs like “Summer’s End” and “Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)” are iPod mainstays. Heavy hooks and infectious drums keep the pulse of the album going. “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners” is a chance for dueling guitars to show off in a quasi-indie style.

Heard on its own, you would never guess that this instrumental piece comes from the Foo Fighters. The album closer, “Home,” is a simple man-and-piano ballad. Grohl’s stripped-down voice stands in striking contrast to the rest of the album, leaving a listener to ask, “Is this really the Foo Fighters?”

This eclectic album seems to work in spite of itself. The beats and levels created by the alternating song styles flow together. This is an album in the greatest sense of the word.

It’s easy to hop on iTunes and buy the three songs you decide you like based on their 30-second sound clip. But that would be a grave mistake. All of the songs have something to add.

The Foo Fighters have managed to step back from their usual sound and give us what every great rock band should: a great album.