A full year after releasing an ambitious eighth studio album, the Foo Fighters are back with a new five-song EP almost out of the blue. Following the mindset of their previous album, “Sonic Highways” (2015), the new release, “Saint Cecilia,” was recorded in DIY fashion in the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, Tex. during the weekends of the Austin City Limits music festival. It was released as a free download a month later, on Nov. 23, with a letter from frontman Dave Grohl.
In this letter, Grohl writes about the idea behind the EP. Since their previous album, fans have seen the release of Foo Fighters’ Emmy-winning HBO documentary series “Sonic Highways” (2014), which followed their on-the-road recording process as they drove across the United States, the band’s 20th anniversary, and a world tour spanning six continents, most of which saw Grohl performing with a broken leg. To conclude the tour, the band decided to record this EP to thank the fans and remind them to celebrate life, music and the bond they share.
Although this was the original intention, just prior to the EP release and the end of the tour, the gruesome terrorist attacks in Paris put a halt to their final four dates. Because of this, the new hope for this release is to “bring a little light into this sometimes dark world.”
The titular opening track starts out rather eclectically, with a soft version of the verse and chorus building into the kind of intense beat that one has come to expect when Taylor Hawkins gets behind the kit. The classic American rock and roll sound that the Foo Fighters have been developing for the last two or three albums is apparent, with sprinkles of light synths here and there. The chorus and bridge are filled out with harmonies by Texan singer-songwriter Ben Kweller, and it is on this bridge that the listener can hear Grohl return to his iconic screams atop the layered vocal section. The whole song is in form with much of the newer side of the Foos’ catalog — so much so that, at times, it seems like they are revisiting old melodic and songwriting cliches.
It’s the next track, “Sean,” that really sounds like a facsimile of the Foos’ past. It starts out strong, with the verses leading into ’70s-style riffs with guitar harmonies, but the chorus tag is taken straight from their own book. This sort of thing usually goes unnoticed, but since the tag was right from “Feast and the Famine,” one of the leading singles from their previous album, it sticks out a little bit more.
“Savior Breath” boasts a much more raw, punk-driven sound reminiscent of The Stooges and Motörhead. There is usually at least one fast-paced track with gritty, distorted vocals like this on a Foo Fighters release, and although this is one of the EP’s more driving songs, it unfortunately does not seem to take the listener anywhere new.
The following track, “Iron Rooster,” bring things down and starts to set a mood with ambient keys fading in accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The instrumental section features blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr., which adds an interesting musical touch. But, once again, the chord structure and verse melody seem very familiar — although, this time, the comparison lies with “Old Man” by Neil Young (1972).
The final track, “The Neverending Sigh,” is possibly the strongest song on the EP. It starts off slowly but quickly builds into a driving force. The riffs and harmonies are a prime example of the now-iconic three-guitar Foo Fighters tone. It’s a shame, however, that the song fades out right as the band starts to let loose and get in the groove.
Overall, “Saint Cecilia” seems to have its commendable moments, but they appear few and far between. In the letter Grohl released with the EP, he also hinted at the Foo Fighters taking a long hiatus, and after this last year, no one could blame them. Knowing this, it makes it more apparent that these songs were written at a crossroads for the band, one last hurrah before things change. Although this EP is interesting for this reason, change is never a bad thing.