Out of the darkness that fell over the world on November 13th when Paris was tragically attacked came a free gift from modern rock legends Foo Fighters: an EP entitled Saint Cecilia. Band front man Dave Grohl said in an open letter to fans that while the project had begun in October, the attacks had framed the songs in a new way. As the name suggests, Saint Cecilia is a musical tribute to music itself, and now it seems to reveal how song can provide a little light and healing even in the most dismal hours of life.
As beautiful and powerful of a thought that is, sentiment alone does not make an album. Thankfully, Foo Fighters have broken out of their Sonic Highways-induced songwriting slump and produced their best work in years. Saint Cecilia is driven by infectious riffs and supercharged by a rediscovered sincerity.
Saint Cecilia begins with its self-titled track, an apparent prayer to the Patron Saint of Music herself, a call to a contemporary muse. The song is bittersweet with frank lyrics like “I know no matter what I say / days will come and go / no matter what I say / nothing’s set in stone.” Grohl’s voice and the guitars build each other up in their shared brightness and effortlessness, and Taylor Hawkins’ tight drumming is tasteful yet never dull, as usual. It is an absolutely enchanting and moving way to begin this special album.
The EP picks ups speed with the track “Sean.” The tune’s verses begin without hesitation, sprinting straight in with rapid chords and punk-inspired drum riffs. In contrast, the chorus takes on a nearly Deep Purple-esque feel with a cowbell clunking to keep rhythm while the guitar spits an infectious, harmonized lick. The song is perhaps a bit too straightforward by Foo Fighters standards, but the fun energy is just irresistible.
The third track, “Savior Breath,” somehow goes even more ballistic. The song plainly lays out its quick, hard rock riff right from the beginning only to unleash a brief but catchy guitar solo. Verses and choruses are played without hesitation—without giving listeners even a chance to think. Because the song is spat out so relentlessly, it often passes by with little impact, but a few listens will reveal some excellent fretwork and a wonderfully grungy tone in Grohl’s voice.
The bizarre ballad “Iron Rooster” slows the EP down again. The chord progression is weirdly bouncy and folksy for a Foo Fighters song. Yet, the lyrics are beautifully familiar with verses like: “have you ever been drunk enough to say what you wanted to say / without no words getting in the way? / Have you ever been in love enough to be who you wanted to be? / I won’t mind you if you don’t mind me.” “Iron Rooster” is perhaps the weakest song on the EP due to its surreal sound, but it is still plenty interesting enough to be worth a listen.
Saint Cecilia closes with what is probably its grandest song: “The Neverending Sigh.” It begins with distant, ethereal cries from a guitar only to boldly burst into what may be one of the grooviest verse riffs Foo Fighters has ever written. The chorus roars in a punchy half-time and ushers in a soaring guitar solo as the song and the EP draw to a close. “The Neverending Sigh” is nothing short of a bold, unrelenting, epic spectacle.
There is so much to love about Saint Cecilia: the lack of a price tag, the timeless message, and the rock anthems themselves, of course. I hope Foo Fighters do not lose this vigorous spirit in their next full-length release.