The 12 Discs of Christmas, Wasting Light

I was introduced to the Foo Fighters by a workmate of mine. He leant me One by One, and I listened to it a couple of times and thought it was not that great. And I basically forgot about it, and the guy who lent it to me moved to the UK, and that might have been it for the Foo Fighters and me, except that for no especially specific or identifiable reason, let’s just use the word “friendship” as a placeholder here, we kept in touch and after his couple of years abroad he came back to work with me again. We shared an office in the back of the building which was pretty well isolated from the main worker area. By the time he came back from the UK some of the musical habits we’d started 4 or so years before had become entrenched, but there had been some refinements.

We had, for example, the Venn Diagram of Musical Taste, which was giant circles on the wall with post-it notes of our musical likes and dislikes. If the post-it was outside your circle, it was musico-non-grata, if it was in the sweet intersection of the Venn, well, it got played a fair amount. Bob Dylan was the stand-out performer in the Venn Diagram, appearing in every intersection and non-intersection – and he gets another mention in this sequence so I’ll leave it there. The cornerstone of music in the back office was Angry Fridays, where we would dial up a play-list of metal, hard-rock, and some select electronica that expressed our emotional connection to working in the building industry. The play-list included “Bodies” by Drowning Pool, “Dragula” by Rob Zombie, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica, “Life is a Bullet” by Papa Roach, “Prison Song” by System of a Down, “Zero” by Smashing Pumpkins, “Crawling” by Linkin Park, “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin, “Iron Flower” by K’s Choice… but the headline acts were always “Killing in the Name of” by Rage Against the Machine and “Back in Black” by AC/DC. The defining quote from my friend was “The only thing worse than listening to AC/DC, is listening to it softly.” In the front office they had Beachboy Fridays and if I’d had to sing along to that for a decade I figuratively would have killed someone, and one of my many happy memories of that workplaces was them sending a delegate to the back office to tell us they couldn’t hear their perfect harmonies over us.

The foundation stone, however, was the collected works of the Foo Fighters, which successive generations of graduates cloistered in the back with us could also enjoy, and who are a solid solid band. They always remained in or at least near the perfect centre of that Venn diagram, and because my friend was a massive fan, they were played, well, as often as we could tolerate – probably less than one album a day. So it was hugely exciting when they announced an Auckland show for which tickets were actually available. Our previous office administrator had been a reasonably big fan too, and I hatched a plan that the three of us would travel to Auckland, Rock that Concert, and it would Awesome ™. His first child had a different idea, picking a due date suspiciously close to the concert. Not to be discouraged, the two of us not expecting offspring toddled off, had a fantastic weekend away, and send increasingly infrequent text messages to keep him apprised. I can count on one hand the better more fun weekends, but our absent friend was a spectral presence, the ghost of the show.

Wasting Light is by far my favourite of their albums, as I think it pulled together all the strongest bits of Rock’n’Roll from their various talents and didn’t go off-topic the way some other albums have done (Skin and Bones still strikes me as basically pointless). The Foo Fighters, and Dave Grohl, do okay in that soft-rock melodic stuff, but they’re not the best at it. They absolutely are the best at your straight-up Rock music. I started to type what songs I liked and what was good about them, but the only one I have a “could leave it” thought about is “White Limo”. If I have to pick out one stand-out track in the periodic fanboy lovefests, it’ll be a different one each time. Wasting Light is an album I think most bands would be happy to have as their Greatest Hits. But really, in some ways, when it comes down to it, for all that it’s a great album, it’s also always a kind of ghost of one of my best friends, and listening to it always puts a smile on my face at least in part because it always brings him to my mind.

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