By Kimberly Ilkowski
Arts & Entertainment Editor
If Foo Fighters want fans around the world to know one thing, it’s that music has the power to unite us during our most challenging times.
Although the band has been working on new material since October and was teasing big news to fans via a mysterious countdown clock on the band’s official website, the message and purpose of its new five-song EP, entitled “Saint Cecilia,” has changed drastically.
Following the Friday, Nov. 13, attacks in Paris, where over 100 lives were lost during a shooting at an Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan, the community, the music industry and the world struggled to cope with the senseless act of violence that took place.
With the Foo Fighter’s latest release comes a renewed message of hope, discussed by frontman Dave Grohl in an open letter on the band’s website. The site also featured a link to The Sweet Stuff Foundation, which helps musical communities and their families during times of sickness and disability.
“‘The Saint Cecilia’ EP was put into motion… as a celebration of life and music,” Grohl wrote in the letter. “The concept being that, as our world tour drew to a close this week, we wanted to share our love of both with you in return for everything you have given us. Now, there is a new, hopeful intention that, even in the smallest way, perhaps these songs can bring a little light into this sometimes dark world. To remind us that music is life, and that hope and healing go hand in hand with song. That much can never be taken away.”
As fans eagerly waited for the clock to strike midnight on Monday, Nov. 23, when the countdown would reach its end, they were given just that — five stellar songs that sound like a time capsule of all the greatest periods in the band’s 20 year history.
The EP, which features collaborations with such artists as Gary Clark Jr, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Ben Kweller, bursts to life with the ethereal rock opening track “Saint Cecilia.”
Reminiscent of the songs on its latest full-length release, “Sonic Highways,” “Saint Cecilia” offers the same grassroots lyricism found on key tracks of the album. The song takes inspiration from, yet certainly does not mimic, the song “Congregation,” which was recorded in Nashville, Tenn., with Zac Brown of the country group, Zac Brown Band. Both songs are instant anthems with booming instrumentals and catchy choruses.
The next track, “Sean,” would fit perfectly on the band’s first self-titled release, which featured the quick-paced grit that jump-started the band’s career. Although faster and more jerky, “Sean” has touches of the quirky lyricism of “Big Me” and could easily follow the album’s opening track “This Is A Call” in terms of musicality. The song breathes a youthful energy into the EP, especially with its mid-song breakdown, during which the band continually shouts “Sean!”
The EP’s third track, “Savior Breath,” keeps energy levels high as it displays the same urgency and anger felt on the band’s 2011 album “Wasting Light.” Similar thrashing guitars and wails are found on “Savior Breath” as on the older album’s “White Limo,” which is like a bullet train that rips through the airwaves.
“Iron Rooster” slows things down a bit a la much of the music on the band’s 2007 LP “Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace.” The constantly mellow song displays a quiet confidence, never feeling the need to puff out its chest to prove its worthiness on the track listing. Though the song doesn’t ever pick up its pace, it doesn’t need to, showing itself as one of the Foo’s smoothest jams.
The “Saint Cecilia” EP comes to a close with the song “Neverending Sigh,” which could easily find its home on the band’s 2002 album “One By One.” The band finishes strong with speedy, hard guitars and pounding drums. During the chorus, Grohl growls, “No one lets everyone in,” with the same menacing grip as heard in the opening lines of “All My Life.”
The EP is indeed a collection of once unfinished songs dug up from throughout the span the band’s career, some just months old while others date back decades. While each could fit well on previous Foo releases, the songs ultimately work together the best, creating a scrapbook of sorts showing just how much the band has evolved musically.
Like many other prominent artists, such as U2 and Prince, The Foo Fighters decided to cut its European tour short in the wake of the Paris attacks. That does not mean, however, that the band will back down from its message.
As Grohl closed his letter to fans, he stated, “We will return and celebrate life and love with you once again someday with our music. As it should be done.”