The Foo Fighters’ “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” is an inconsistent album from a band known for its consistency. Dave Grohl has never been as brilliant, exciting, or inspired as former band mate Kurt Cobain, but on each Foo Fighters album, he’s consistently written catchy songs that bring the rock. There are some great songs on “Echoes,” and despite branching out into more acoustic timbres and experimental structures, it still sounds like a Foo Fighters album. But it also comes off as a self-conscious attempt to write a ‘classic’ album by overextending the band’s creative limits, the kind of stunt that many inexperienced bands try on their sophomore records, usually destroying any appeal that they had in the first place.
Of course, the Foo Fighters are now on their sixth studio album, the band could hardly be called inexperienced, destroying their appeal would be nearly impossible, and it would take a much larger misstep than “Echoes,” regardless.
But it still stings to see Grohl shoot for the moon with some fantastic tracks like “Statues,” and wind up all over the map with a mess of B-Side material.
“Echoes” is riddled with dull acoustic numbers and heart-on-the-sleeve ballads that seem to drag on well past their expiration date, bringing the album’s energy down with them.
It happens early, and it happens often. Coming down from lead single “The Pretender,” “Let it Die” opens the second track of the album with a full two minutes of buildup, complete with hushed singing, strumming guitars, and not a drum kit in earshot. “Come Alive” builds on the same basic premise. It doesn’t create tension or excitement – just boredom. If only the quiet bits were more interesting, or shorter, these would be great rock songs.
Only “But, Honestly,” near the end of the album, manages to pull off the formula without sounding forced. Perhaps it’s because the delicate intro is the highlight of the song, rather than a stepping-stone on the way to a bombastic finale. By the time the guitars get cranked up, it has already worked its magic.
The rest of the album is divided between ballads and rockers. It really cannot be stressed enough how much the ballads hurt the album with their repetitive, trite arrangements. Grohl is certainly capable of great songwriting, but tracks like “Stranger Things Have Happened” sound more ‘open mic night’ than ‘acoustic classic’: too long, too simple, and simply boring. “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners,” an instrumental, demonstrates some fine musicianship, but doesn’t really fit into the album as a whole.
But, as far as straight-up rock songs go, there is a lot to like on “Echoes.” Opener “The Pretender” will be familiar territory for Foo Fighters fans, and Grohl is so good at writing songs like this that they are always a pleasure.
Softer rock numbers like “Long Road to Ruin” and “Summer’s End” are the real highlights of the record, and evoke Aerosmith or Lynyrd Skynyrd with bluesy riffs and sweet melodies.
“Statues” could be the sleeper hit of the album, with an instantly memorable chorus and a guitar that recalls The Beatles’ “Something.” It’s a really incredible song, and it would not be surprising to see it represent “Echoes” on a future greatest hits album. Which makes it a shame that such gems are buried in some of the least interesting Foo Fighters material to date. None of it is bad, per se, but most of it will go in one ear and out the other.
“Echoes” drags so much that it can be difficult to get through the album in one sitting. Fans of the Foo Fighters will still find plenty to like here, but anyone who just heard the single on the radio would be baffled by the slapdash approach. With some careful pruning, this could have been made much more listenable. But, as is, it’s just a subpar Foo Fighters album that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
Chris Reimer is a fourth-year student at West Chester University majoring in mathematics with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.