A truly great pop-rock album is like an ice-cold bottle of Coke: it isn’t good for you, but it contains too much sugary deliciousness to pass up.
“Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace,” the new Foo Fighters compact disc is more like Diet Coke: it still isn’t good for you, but it tries so hard to be healthy that it becomes a flavorless, watered-down imitation of the original.
I don’t mean to be too hard on the Foo Fighters – or on Diet Coke, for that matter – because they are, after all, trying. “Echoes” finds the Foos taking the disparate styles from the “In Your Honor” two discs and condensing them into one album.
But the combination of angry pop-rock and contemplative acoustic balladry on a single CD, and often a single song, yields few stimulating results. Never do the Foo Fighters match the visceral pop of “Best of You” or the serene beauty of “Still,” two tracks from their last album.
And it’s too bad, because it would be nice if the music itself could justify the passion in Dave Grohl’s vocal performance. When he roars triumphantly over barn-burners like “Let it Die” and the humorously titled “Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make-Up is Running),” you can almost forget that the 38-year-old Grohl should be long past the point of experiencing the type of teenage angst that he caters to.
Increasingly, Grohl seems to be in his element when crooning steady, hushed vocals over subdued acoustic melodies. But his voice’s clarity is a double-edged blade: the more slowly and articulately Grohl sings, the more it is impossible to ignore his underwhelming lyrics.
For instance, on the lethargic, piano-drenched final track, “Home,” Grohl plaintively emotes, “stand in the mirror / you look the same / just looking for shelter / from cold and the pain.” The lyrics may not make you cringe, but they won’t really make you think or feel anything either.
Perhaps that is why the album’s most surprising track, the folksy “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners,” is so enjoyable- it’s instrumental. The song is part of the Foo Fighters’ admirable, ongoing quest to expand their arsenal of sounds and styles. But ultimately, “Ballad” seems out of place on an album that had been teeming with gnarled shouts and power-chords just moments before.
This lack of identity is just one of the ways in which the album leaves something to be desired, and by its conclusion it seems clear that “Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace,” is nearly as broad, dull and unmemorable as its title.