Foo Fighters are back in business

Foo Fighters attempt to reinvigorate their sound on the seventh album, Wasting Light, which was recorded entirely in Dave Grohl's garage.

The band Foo Fighters poses for a photograph in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
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Wasting Light

Convention dictates that a band's popularity and success will directly reflect the quality of their creative output. A triumphant album will win a group more followers, earning them bigger gigs and greater record sales, or so the theory goes. But if this is the case, the Foo Fighters have pulled off something of a coup over the past decade.

While the US rockers have become beloved elder statesmen of rock, capable of selling out arenas in minutes, even their staunchest supporters would agree that each new album has shown a decline.

You now have to look back more than a decade to find the band on an upward creative trajectory. With their 1995 eponymous debut and the 1997 classic The Colour and the Shape, Dave Grohl's band provided a refreshing alternative to the overpowering sincerity of many of their post-grunge contemporaries, and the unrelenting meat-headedness of those in the hard rock world. The Foo Fighters could shred riffs with the best of them, but they also had hooks and humour.

A stint behind the drums for Queens of the Stone Age reinvigorated Grohl enough to make 2002's One by One, a hard rock record that still deserved to exist in the post-Strokes world. But 2005's bloated double album In Your Honour and 2007's utterly forgettable Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace suggested the Foos were a spent force creatively, regardless of how many summer festival headlining appearances they made.

Perhaps secretly aware that the group had been running on fumes for some time, band leader Grohl has made an effort to inject some punk-rock cred into the group's seventh long-player, Wasting Light. The singer proudly announced that the album was recorded entirely in his garage on analogue tape (Kurt Cobain doubtless would have approved). What's more, he's attempted to breathe new life into the group by adding some star guest-appearances, including his former Nirvana cohort Krist Novoselic, Hüsker Dü singer Bob Mould, former Foos guitarist Pat Smear and Nevermind producer Butch Vig. How they all managed to fit in Grohl's garage is anyone's guess.

Bridge Burning is a highly effective opener, with one of the best choruses ever to spring from the singer's lips. It's a reminder of what the band do best: pounding rhythms and catchy melodies. The song is, however, still more in keeping with their recent, less ironic take on hard rock, than anything from their 1990s heyday.

Elsewhere, Wasting Light continues to be one of the group's most direct rock records. Rope features Grohl screeching like a cat and lashes of guitar solo. White Limo is a bristling riff-laden number, more than a little reminiscent of Weenie Beenie from the band's debut.

As always, Grohl is keen to show off his tender side too. These Days, while teetering on middle of the road, may just be the group's catchiest song since Learn to Fly. Dear Rosemary and Arlandria also show the band in mellow pop-rock mode, but while the singer manages to avoid sounding cloying, it's rarely invigorating either.

Without any serious misfires and plenty of successes, Wasting Light seems to have reversed the band's recent trend of diminishing returns. But despite the "Foo Fighters family album" approach, it fails to recapture the goofy charm and off-kilter songwriting that made the band so essential during their early years.

Grohl and co sound refreshed and as musically adept as ever, but somehow this still feels only a little better than business as usual.