Foo Fighters

"Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace" (RCA) - 3 1/2 stars

In a bold break with their own tradition of high-powered guitar riffs and earth-shaking drums, Grammy winning rockers the Foo Fighters, led by Dave Grohl, offer a mellower, more sophisticated type of rock with their seventh album “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.” The result, although not always straight-ahead, still rocks.

“Echoes” follows in the footsteps of earlier Foo Fighter albums, yet stands out for its sophistication and control. Starting off with a few mediocre hard-drivers, the album takes a while to hit its stride, but once it does, it shows why the Foo Fighters have attained such popularity.

The album opens with the single “The Pretender,” a tired tirade against the fake and phony. The disdainful chorus declares: “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’ll never surrender?” While the message comes across loud and clear, the song comes off as loud and unoriginal, and Grohl’s yelling during the chorus makes it almost unbearable.

The next couple of tracks are similarly grating, but the album’s fourth song, “The Long Road to Ruin,” sets it on a long road to success. “The Long Road to Ruin” stands out as the best rock song on the album and evokes earlier hits like “Learn to Fly” and “Monkey Wrench.” It starts slowly but soon picks up, going on to boldly propose: “Let’s say we take this town / No king or queen of any state / Get up to shut it down / Open the streets and raise the gates.” The song marks a return to what the Foo Fighters are best at: producing songs with smooth chord progressions and catchy choruses.

As the album progresses, Grohl slows the tempo and lowers the volume, and the album comes together. With songs like “Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)” and “Summer’s End,” the album is more subdued and sophisticated than other Foo Fighters offerings, yet the change is welcome.

Just when the album’s direction seems clear, the Foo Fighters throw the listener off with “The Ballad of Beaconsfield Miners,” a guitar-picking instrumental written in collaboration with young guitar guru Kaki King. At first, the ballad is shocking from a band that normally prides itself on gassed-up guitars and pounding drums, but once the listener gets over the shock, the ballad adds a great original touch to the album. The Foo Fighters softly close the album with the gentle piano melody of “Home,” which finds Grohl lamenting the passage of time.

With “Echoes,” the Foo Fighters definitively depart from their earlier style of guitar-heavy rock. But the evolution reveals a more sophisticated side of the band; thankfully, Grohl and company have learned that good rock doesn’t always have to go all out.


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