A few years ago, many of the department stores in Australia were either drastically reducing their music department, or removing them completely as sales of compact discs were in continuous decline. While it was a sad state of affairs, collectors were relishing the discount prices and over the years I have certainly bagged a bargain. One, in particular, was the Foo Fighters Wasting Light CD, including a piece of the original master tape. At the time, I was still heavily invested in the MP3 era and collecting music again, in any physical format, wasn't at the top of my priority list. However, a chance to own a piece of the master tape was an extremely enticing and unique opportunity. Plus, for AU$5, I couldn’t leave it on the shelf.
While my segment of the tape may only contain silence, or perhaps a single note, it is mine and a treasured possession in my collection. I’ve often wondered if all the fans got together and joined their pieces together, would we be able to reconstruct the original master tape? Yes, it’s a romantic notion, but a cool idea nevertheless.
If you’re unfamiliar with Wasting Light, you may be wondering why a 2011 release would be recorded directly to tape. Truth is tape-based systems are still being used around the world, although they are now the exception rather than the rule. While I could give you a complete rundown on why the Foo Fighters took this approach, I suggest you check out Tom Doyle’s excellent article: Foo Fighters: Recording Wasting Light as it answers all the questions you may have about their intentions.
While the Foo Fighters have a signature sound, the analogue production certainly created a unique sound signature. It is warm and full of emotive rhythm while maintaining a genuinely raw sound. Although the CD is rather heavily compressed, from a sonic perspective, the result is an addictive sound that I feel still offers a true representation of just how good analogue recordings can sound on CD. The only issue arising from the compressed dynamic range is Hawkins’ drums sound a little off in some areas, especially in relation to cymbal representation. They simply fail to shimmer as much as I would like.
The packaging is impressive, but that shouldn't be surprising as the Foo Fighters often go the extra mile for fans who wish to own the physical product. Did you collect all eight vinyl covers of Sonic Highways?
The CD, liner notes, and coveted piece of master tape are presented in a gatefold pack, reminiscent of the vinyl release. I know some people don't like this style of CD packaging, but I love it! Japanese Mini-LP’s anyone?
While there isn’t a bad Foo Fighters album, I would have to say Wasting Light is my overall favourite, followed by their Greatest Hits. Yes, I know the greatest hits release isn't an album per se, but it does encapsulate some of their greatest songs into a single album.
Bridge Burning sets the tone for the entire album and does not let up until the final note is played. You get a real sense of energy from the song and Grohl's vocals are incredible in both depth and presentation. Bridge Burning is incredibly addictive and you will feel compelled to move. I strongly suggest not sitting down to listen to this song, or the entire album, as it demands interactivity (get those air guitars, microphones, and drums ready).
I find the introduction of Rope to be tedious. That is until the chorus enters the mix. Part of the problem is that I feel there are two songs, fighting to be heard, at the beginning of the song. However, it does all fall into place and becomes one of the best songs on the album. The guitar solo is particularly compelling, as is the intermingling drum beat. Massively complex, and I love it!
Dear Rosemary is one of the grooviest songs on Wasting Light. The deep, soulful, yet gritty vocals of Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü & Sugar) is a welcome addition to an exceptional song. It is one of my all-time favourite Foo Fighters songs.
White Limo is guitar riff heaven with a killer bass and drum beat. It is grunge 101, but that isn't a bad thing!
Arlandria shifts the album to a more rhythmic groove, yet this shift feels perfectly natural and I absolutely love this song. It is sonic perfection, with a perfect mix! Alan Moulder, you're a legend for this mix alone.
These Days is simply gorgeous!
Back & Forth is a killer rock tune. The blues-infused rock sound is extremely appealing and while the guitar solo is nothing to write home about, it suits the recording perfectly.
A Matter Of Time is a great tune, but Hawkin's cymbals are particularly affected by the dynamic range compression. I can't help but wonder if the vinyl mastering would fix this issue as it has a reported dynamic range response of 11 out of 20, whereas the CD pressing is a 5. Nevertheless, I still really enjoy the song and I love how it flows seamlessly into the incredible Miss The Misery.
Miss The Misery is one of the best songs on the album and one of the greatest ever recorded by the Foo Fighters. Although, just between you and me, I could say that about the majority of the Foo Fighters recordings. They are simply sensational in every meaning of the word.
I Should Have Known is an incredibly beautiful and emotional song. Grohl's Lennon-inspired vocal style, think Imagine era, is one of the greatest vocal recordings I have ever heard. I put it in the same category as Cobain's vocal on Something In The Way.
If any band is struggling to find the perfect song to close an album with, that will encourage the fans to play the album again, then they should most certainly take note of Walk. It encompasses the very best of Wasting Light and the Foo Fighters.
Walk is my desert island song, but Wasting Light is also coming along as it is one of the greatest rock albums in not only the Foo Fighters’ career but in recorded music history.
The catalog number for the CD used in this review is: 88697-84493-2.
Despite the dynamic range compression, the CD sounds exquisite. Therefore, I recommend you track down a copy; if for no other reason than owning a piece of the master tape (only available with the CD release, Vinyl releases unfortunately missed out).
As much as I love the CD, I really should get a copy on vinyl as the album artwork would be stunning. Speaking of artwork, is it just me or did Metallica somewhat copy the concept for Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Different, I know, but I can't help but see the similarities.