Release Date: Nov 23, 2015
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Rock, Pop/Rock
It’s been a weird year for the Foo Fighters. What should have been an explosive 20th anniversary celebration essentially boiled down into the Broken Leg Tour. From atop a Game of Thrones-esque guitar throne, band leader Dave Grohl led his outfit each night through two hours of rawk ‘n’ roll, complete with hits and surprise guests galore. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but to their credit, they made sugary strawberry lemonade out of fading lemons.
Foo Fighters are the biggest rock and roll band in the world. Theyâ€™re popular enough to sell at Walmart but also riff hard enough to satiate your arena filling needs. If modern rock radio sounded more like Foo Fighters, the world would be a better place. And, so, like the leaders of other genres, Dave Grohl and co.
In the nearly two decades since The Colour and the Shape put him on a whole new map, Dave Grohl’s highest profile is not as a Foo Fighter but as a kind of brand ambassador for rock, like Neymar for Nike, or Shaq for IcyHot. Last year’s HBO documentary series Sonic Highways and its accompanying album were a poignant tribute to the notion that iconoclastic musicians were extant in cities all across America, just waiting to be subsumed into the Foo Fighters’ trademark monochromatic pop-rock. While promoting the record this summer, Grohl made headlines when he broke his leg falling off a Gothenburg stadium stage.
"Have you ever been dumb enough to do what you wanted to do?" Dave Grohl croons on the swampy ballad "Iron Rooster," the sole respite from rocking on Foo Fighters' Saint Cecilia EP. The lyric is more a dare than a question, and it captures the spirit of the hard rockers' bucket-list mantra of recent years, as they've trotted across the U.S. to make Sonic Highways, sidled up with Stevie Nicks and Rick Springfield for Sound City experience and toured with a giant throne instead of a wheelchair.
Dave Grohl is as much of a rock 'n' roll ambassador as he is a rock musician at this point, and his politics stand on a well-meaning, but wobbly platform: whenever someone with an elite level of money, power and influence presents himself as an everydude, cognitive dissonance is inevitable. While the star-studded travelogue Sonic Highways promised "a musical map of America", it could've passed for a longform Hard Rock Café commercial, ignoring basically every genre outside of the blues-rock lineage. The featherweight Sound City: Reel to Reel documentary and soundtrack was similarly amicable, but it happened to conflate rock 'n roll's "human element" with the Neve console, a machine costing somewhere between $78,000 and $1 million.
Saint Cecilia isn’t just the name of the hotel in Austin, Texas where Foo Fighters recorded this surprise five-track EP; she was also a second-century martyr canonised as the patroness saint of musicians, a community who are still in shock following the tragic events in Paris earlier this month. Dave Grohl can’t not have something to say on that subject – it’d be like the President skipping the weekly radio address after a national tragedy – but the attacks had a personal dimension for him: not only were they the reason behind the cancellation of yet another string of European Foo Fighters shows, but Grohl’s friends the Eagles Of Death Metal were on the ground in the Bataclan itself. These five songs were actually written and recorded prior to the attacks, but given Foo Fighters’ history with holistic everyman anthems of wounded defiance, it’s no surprise to find them striking an appropriate tone on the title track.