Part of Nirvana’s greatness stemmed from their volatility. The exact opposite can be said of Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters. Since their 1995 debut, Grohl has been a model of steady efficiency, and Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace is another quality entry in a fantastically average career.
Two-thirds of these tracks sound a lot like songs Grohl has done before: “The Pretenders” is “Stacked Actors,” even down to the lyrics decrying phonies; and if you’ve heard “My Hero,” you’ve got a good idea what “Statues” sounds like. But Grohl sometimes experiments, and the handful of songs that deviate from the wallop’n’wail template keep the record afloat. “Summer’s End” is a breezy blast of California country rock, and “Long Road to Ruin” flies jubilantly with a hook so gigantic you could land a hammerhead with it.
Most of Echoes rails against people who want to hold the singer down (which raises the question: Is anybody — okay, besides Courtney — really trying to oppress Dave Grohl?). The album’s best song is “The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners,” a bluegrass instrumental that’s an oasis amid the combative bluster. It’s hard to criticize Grohl for his lack of innovation, because he’s never wanted to start a revolution. But at this point, Foo Fighters’ consistency has become predictability, and it threatens to trap them in the modern-rock ghetto, dangerously close to those guys in Hinder. KYLE ANDERSON