The Sober Sixth

By Sonya Rehman

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Out with their sixth album in September last month, ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ will surprise avid Foo Fighter fans. Why? That’s because this time around, the band sounds a whole lot more sober, ‘toned down’ and matured – ever so slightly dipping its toes in a tepid pool called ‘monotony’.

Therefore coining the album; ‘the sober sixth’, seems pretty appropriate. But this is not to state that the album is a let-down, just that, if you’re accustomed to classic Foo Fighter singles such as ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘Best of You’, ‘There Goes My Hero’, and so on, the ‘angst-factor’ may be somewhat lacking in ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’. And hey, that’s enough to throw you a little off balance.

As mentioned by Dave Grohl (lead Foo vocalist and rhythm guitarist) in an interview, Steely Dan’s (a jazz-rock band of the 70s) sound has had a considerable impact and influence over the Foo’s recent studio release.
No wonder that – the eclecticism of the 70s’ stringy rock sound in album number six is evident then.
Starting off relatively mellow with gentle teases of the guitar chords, jilted ‘Let It Die’ oscillates between placidity and torment. Grohl sounds duped and dumped as he sings: “A heart of gold/But it lost its pride/Beautiful veins/And bloodshot eyes/I see your face/In another light” – but after the first minute and a half, the song snaps out of its docility amidst thrashing drums and the voice of an angry (not broken) man.

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The Foo Fighters

And then there’s ‘Come Alive’ – a song in strong contrast if put up against ‘Let It Die’. Pretty, dejected little song it is, albeit with clichéd lyrics, the song isn’t that great a shake. But if we’re talking mellow in every sense of the word, ‘Stranger Things Have Happened’ is a gorgeous, nostalgic number that may remind one of the Pearl Jam classic ‘Better Man’ (from the album ‘Vitalogy’).
“You’ll dream about somewhere/A smoke will fill the air/As I lay awake and wait/For you to walk out that door/I can change I can change I can change…” Grohl sings in ‘Stranger Things Have Happened’.

The song, ‘Home’ is what may surprise you on the other hand. For one, it sounds too pained to be a Foo Fighter number, and two, Grohl plays the piano for this track (in addition to two other songs on the album).
‘Home’ gives one a mental image of walking down a busy street, amidst the hubbub of nightlife, blurry street lights and blotchy neon traffic signals. The sentimental folks out there will appreciate ‘Home’, but the passive types may just get plain irritated.

Take a sigh of relief though, ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ isn’t all puppies, rainbows, fuzzy nostalgia and lollipops, ‘Erase Replace’ rolls out in a typical Foo Fighter jumpy fashion. Edgy and interestingly military-ish (when the song starts), the track is ridden with bullets of angst against the system. Nice one, this number. Empowering too.

As stated earlier, regarding the stringy 70s rock influence apparent in the Foo’s album, ‘Summer’s End’ (like ‘Cheer Up Boys Your Make Up Is Running)’ is a prime example of it. Instead of the band’s signature edginess, the sound has been smoothened over. Peppered with a tinge of country guitar twang, ‘Summer’s End’ is so-so in a relaxed, kick-your-feet-back way.

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In 2006, on the 25th of April, seventeen mine workers in Beaconsfield, Tasmania (in Australia), were trapped beneath a collapsed mine. And from the seventeen, fourteen managed to escape, whilst one passed away. But the remaining two, were eventually rescued a staggering two weeks (!) after the collapse.
So what does this incident have to do with the Foo Fighters? Apparently, one (of the two survivors) whilst trapped (an entire kilometer below ground level) requested the rescuers above to send him an iPod full of songs by the Foos, so that he could get by the time till his rescue! Therefore  the instrumental, ‘The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners’, was written as an ode to the miners after Grohl met with the particular miner who’d asked for the iPod.
Unfortunately, the instrumental comes across as slightly flat – and really could’ve done with some lyrics.

But when it comes to ‘The Pretender’ – man oh man, now we’re talking! Just as with ‘Erase Replace’, ‘The Pretender’ sounds anti-government and anti-system – apparent in the lyrics: “What if I say I’m not like the others?/What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?/You’re the pretender/What if I say I will never surrender?/What if I say I’m not like the others?”

Somehow when I heard ‘Statues’, my heart skipped a beat – the lyrics and the music is just about glorious. Beautiful number. So vintage. So very ‘Supertramp’!
Even ‘But Honestly’ and ‘Long Road To Ruin’ – it’ll make you want to run down a couple of blocks and smile like an idiot.
Each song’s lyrics are tinged with light, raw pain, and that coupled with the contrasting, upbeat melodies stirs up an odd mix of emotions within.

‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ is suited best for a mature listenership. If you’re hoping for a Foo Fighter CD jam-packed with angst-filled tunes, forget about it.
Apart from two to three pacey-rock numbers, the rest are far gentler, jilted and nostalgic than what you’d usually expect of the Foos.

I’ll still rate this album a spanking four stars though. Why? The Foo Fighters have actually made their sound experimentation work, that’s why.

Instep, The News

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