Fogging up the Sonic Looking-Glass

20 Dec

Before we begin: I was about to write this amazing, poetic review about how the Foo Fighters in Wasting Light play the tension between vocals and instrumental parts in such an innovative way – softening and subverting the vocals, making them sound distant and obscured behind the crash of the guitars – as to create the feeling of having transcended through the sonic looking-glass to the other side of the music, where the instruments rule the vocalist and not the other way around… and then I realised that there’s something wrong with my headphone cable, and the Foo-Fighters’ vocal balance is perfectly normal… so, now that I’ve listened to the album through a different (and less interesting) set of headphones:

~

Despite the long development trajectory of the band and its members, Foo FightersWasting Light presents superficially as a generic album of foot-tapping thrashy music to listen to whilst skateboarding or sketching (at least, that’s what I do with thrashy music…). On closer listening, however, the music is dusted with unpredicted melodic twists and an unconventional ordering of dynamics.

“A Matter of Time” tosses and turns between alternate ends of the dynamic dipole. A driving drumbeat keeps the song flowing between loud, more instrumentally-loaded choruses and barer, more laid-back verses alike. Such subdued verses are randomly accentuated by short, sharp bursts of overdriven guitar, keeping the music fresh and interesting to listen to and creating the feeling of playfully juggling dynamics instead of working towards a typical buildup or bringdown. The song also interweaves a very complementary duo of legato lead-guitar refrain and underlying staccato-strummed chords in its instrumentally-led bridges.

Whilst “Walk”, in terms of dynamics, is more conventionally structured around a classic buildup, its chord progression is a y = a-to-the-x trajectory of unpredictability. I oohed an aahed the first time I heard that fourth chord.

Wasting Light is an enjoyable, fresh-in-places album of crashy, well put-together hard-rock, but I must admit that it sounded far more interesting when my headphones were broken. I would dig to see more pure-instrumental work from this band.

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