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Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 November 2007
format:    16-bit CD
performance:    8
sound:    8
released:    2007
label:    RCA
reviewer:    K L Poore

ImageAs I type this first line, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is my least favorite Foo Fighters release. Even though I own every CD they’ve put out and have shelled out cash money to see them perform in a big cement thud factory like the Long Beach Arena, I’ve got to clearly state this isn’t based upon any intellectual evaluation, track by track analyzation or CD by CD comparison. I just haven’t played it as much as I have their past releases. I come back to it regularly, and that’s a good sign, but I haven’t been captivated as yet.

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace starts off in fighting Foo fashion with “The Pretender,” a sublime piece of music that lures you in with a Downy bear soft verse before breaking into pile driver rock that makes you want to recklessly gun your 1964 Ford Galaxy 500 through the rain-soaked streets of Long Beach. It then slashes your brake lines with one of the catchiest sing-along choruses in Foo history until, naturally, you’re slammed to an abrupt halt.

And Echoes ends with Dave Grohl at a piano singing “Home,” which is, as the Black Crowes said, “… another road song.” It’s a lovely waltz-time ballad which will pull at the emotions of anyone who has ever wanted to just be home. “People I’ve loved/I have no regrets/Some I remember/some I forget/Some of them living/some of them dead/Al I want is to be home.” If you’ve been stranded away from home, and the night seemed darker than any you can remember, this song will resonate deep in your gut and brain.
It’s everything between those two cuts that has me confused. It’s highly possible that this is one of those grow-on-you albums, and maybe one of these times I’ll put it on repeat and enjoy the holy crap out of it, but that hasn’t happened yet and I’ve been living with it for a couple of weeks now.

It seems as if ESP&G is saturated in the Foo’s trademark slow to fast, hard to soft, quirky bridge songwriting sensibilities. And maybe therein lies my problem … trademark. You’re most successful when you write within your own ethos (ask John Fogerty) but sometimes those sensibilities can begin to resemble an OCD compulsion to repeat yourself. I think Grohl, being a talented and smart songwriter, recognizes it as well, and that’s the reason for the inclusion of the acoustic “Stranger Things Have Happened” and finger-pickin’ Led Zep III-ish “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners.” Then again, I also think the successful acoustic tour and CD might have helped him with that decision. The point is, this record sounds very Foo Fighters but still hasn’t captivated me enough to call my friends and tell them to run out and pick it up.

There are points of pure rock splendor on ESP&G. Grohl’s screaming vocals at the end of “Let It Die” are Plastic Ono Band fantastic. And it’s easy to imagine how the repeating figure at the end of “Come Alive” will lead to venue-shaking and screams for one more encore. And just in general, Grohl writes hooks so thick you could catch large mouth bass with them and, come to think of it, Taylor Hawkins’ explosive drumming demonstrates why DG gave up the throne. As a matter of fact, as the CD’s finishing its second consecutive spin today, I realize that there are a lot more PoPRS (Points of Pure Rock Splendor -- I think I’m going to trademark that) on ESP&G than I’d realized.

The George Harrison-esque guitar solo at the 2:40 mark of “Long Road to Ruin” is pretty damn amazing, and “Summer’s End” has a very Neil-like Everybody Knows This is Nowhere feel until it slides into a pop chorus that could have been written in 1967. I’m starting to dig Echoes more and more. Hold on for a few minutes will you?

Okay, now I’m in the middle of the third consecutive spin and I’m reevaluating it right in the middle of writing a review. Did I already mention my confusion? I read the liner notes again and discovered ESP&G was produced by Gil Norton, who also did The Colour and the Shape, not only my favorite Foo but on my list of All-Time CDs. And if I remember correctly (and, damn it, I do), I didn’t really get that one either and I felt like a turd after it’d been in heavy rotation on my stereo for a good five months and I’d already convinced a few friends to lay off of it. So now I have to ask myself if there’s a “February Stars” on ESP&G … but I still don’t know.

I guess what this means is that Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace may now be my least favorite Foo Fighters album, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. How I feel about it right now doesn’t really mean crap, because it’s really good and growing on me like mold on stinky cheese. And I happen to like stinky cheese. It’s an acquired taste that grows on you over time. And eventually you find it captivating. Hmm, I think I’ve got a few friends to call. They’ve got to get Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.

My biggest beef (to go along with that stinky cheese) with Echoes is the mixing and mastering. It sparkles at times but sounds highly compressed at others. Primarily, when the music is soft it’s bright and spacious but when the band unleashes the rock beast it becomes very dense, and the articulation of the instruments becomes negligible. The various voices are recorded incredibly well without any (at least as far as I can tell) of the pitch correction artifacts that you hear on all of the “big hit” releases these days.

Echoes sounds really good on my car stereo, to the point where I may have blown a speaker (or two). In my confused state I decided to do a sound comparison by purchasing a cut from the new Alter Bridge release Blackbird and then playing a cut from Echoes right after it. I repeated this a few times and decided that if the sound production on Echoes is stinky cheese then the flat muck of Blackbird is a wiener. And we know what wieners are made out of.

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