It could be a premature generalization or an unfortunate reality, but it seems that the Foo Fighters' best days are behind them. Post-grunge rock stud Dave Grohl hasn't allowed the band to explore much musical territory beyond their signature steady rock stomp, and while they execute this style seamlessly, it's beginning to get a bit stale in the post-1990s air. Listeners were afraid to admit the Foo Fighters' downfall after the band's 2005 double-album, In Your Honor, but now, with their just-released sixth LP, Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, the thought has become almost unavoidable.
It's not that the songs off the most recent LP aren't on the same level of quality as those produced in the Foo Fighters' prime in the mid-to-late '90s - they just don't offer anything new. As Grohl inadvertently points out on the opening track, "The Pretender," "It's never-ending, never-ending/same old story." "The Pretender" is just infectious enough to make the listener forget that it was better when it was called "All My Life" back in 2002.
Then there's "But Honestly," which slowly builds through a series of acoustic chords before exploding into an inexcusable rendition of "Monkey Wrench" Part II.
Of course, trying new things has never really been a fascination of Grohl, who has stubbornly stuck to formula since the Foo Fighters' debut back in 1995, which ended up a Grohl solo album in nearly every way except name. Streamlined alternative rock was all the rage back then, and the band was successful - and not undeservingly so. But a band has to realize when they are approaching the territory of self-parody, and the Foo Fighters need to come to terms with the fact that they are now past that point.
On the latest LP, Grohl makes little effort to allow one song to stand out from another, and it is practically a chore to remember which is which. Sometimes track-to-track familiarity can be a good thing on a record that relies on a seamless, segueing theme, like The Who's Quadrophenia. It's a bad thing when the record consists of a dozen alt-rock nuggets that were recorded a dozen years too late.
Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace is frontloaded in the most literal sense of the word: it's pretty dismissive after the very first track. The only moment that makes the listener cock his or her head in pleasant surprise is "Summer's End," a country romp with Black Crowes-inspired guitar layers with the addition of a fiddle, ensuring that the southern rock stereotype is complete.
Other than that, though, there's not much to salvage. "Long Road to Ruin" sounds like a castaway from the Buzz Ballads compilation. "The Ballad of the Beaconsfield" is a failed attempt at an acoustic guitar interlude ala Jimmy Page's "Bron-Yr-Aur" or Duane Allman's "Little Martha." The heavy tracks are too blunt and stupid, the acoustic ballads too brittle; Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is just one big whiff.