Last years’ Sonic Highways was grand in concept, but relatively short in quality. It only had eight songs, was slathered in classic rock tropes and had little of the city-by-city diversity promised by the album concept. Saint Cecilia was apparently recorded in the Saint Cecilia Hotel in Austin, Texas in the two weekends of Austin City Limits Festival back in October and definitely has more of a slapdash, punk feel (something that’s been missing from Foo Fighters’ material since the 90s). Contrary to the stadium rock machine that they’ve built during the 2000s, only a few songs pass as stadium ready: ‘Saint Cecilia’, which is typical 2000s Foo Fighters and ‘Iron Rooster’, an acoustic-ballad which, yes, turns into an ’emotional’ climax. ‘The Neverending Sigh’ at a push could be something less punkish, but it can’t decide what kind of song it wants to be. The remaining two songs that make up the middle chunk of the EP – ‘Sean’ and ‘Savior Breath’ are the band at their best – Dave Grohl on fire and furious instrumentation you wouldn’t have thought the band would still be capable of.
For an EP recorded quickly and presumably not well-equipped in a hotel, the package is suspiciously shiny and free of dirt. After the glistening production on Sonic Highways, you might expect something more lo-fi, but that’s not the case. The EP is clearly intended to be a stopgap – with radio-friendly singles tagged on. ‘Saint Cecilia’ will be making the rounds, as will ‘The Neverending Sigh’. However, a song that won’t be appearing on popular radio anytime soon is ‘Savior Breath’. It’s a slap in the face of a song that’s stupidly untamed and punky. Saddled right in the middle of all the glitzy stadium rock is a dumb, fun song where Grohl’s vocals make him sound like a man on the edge while the 70s guitar solo is laughable but completely fits into the song. The pace is what carries the song, not the stupid guitar solo at the start or Grohl’s lyrics, which are familiar in their topic choice (‘My crucify’, ‘I got this sin to savour you’) but are perfectly palatable compared to ‘Iron Rooster’.
‘Iron Rooster’ is Foo Fighters once again descending into the realms of power-rock balladry. Yes, an acoustic guitar and Dave Grohl’s vocals kick everything off and the rest of the unremarkable instrumentation come in gradually. The guitar solo, whilst expected, is actually quite soft and gentle for a Foo Fighters song and the tone of the guitar is subdued. Then the second guitar solo comes in and ruins it. It was a pleasant enough guitar solo without heaping a distorted sledgehammer of a guitar on top for good measure. But that’s what’s expected of Foo Fighters by now – reckless indulgence in every classic rock trope. They rarely surprise, and when they do the surprise is only good because it’s in comparison to the likes of ‘Saint Cecilia’ and ‘Iron Rooster’.
It’s bland Foo Fighters and it’s so ‘rock’ it almost physically hurts. Saint Cecilia, like Sonic Highways and Wasting Light before it are the most vanilla that rock music gets, down to a mush of glossy guitars, bass and drums and Grohl’s vocals which don’t have the emotion that they used to. When they throw out a ‘Savior Breath’ now and again, that’s fine for me because Foo Fighters should only be consumed in 2 minute segments, roughly annually. However, it has to be applauded for being a condensed version of Sonic Highways that packs everything that album did into twenty minutes, including misery, despair and motion sickness from ‘fiery hot’ solos.
Putting the EP into context, the Foo Fighters deserve appreciation for dedicating the EP to the victims of the Paris attacks and that stands on its own as a reason to pick up the EP as the money from the physical release will go to the victims. Extra points for that.
Funnel Recommends: Sean / Savior Breath / The Neverending Sigh