Released on November 23rd
A mysterious countdown clock posted on the Foo Fighters' website in late October eventually resulted in the surprise release three weeks later of a free five song EP titled Saint Cecilia. The album takes its name both from the patroness saint of music and the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, Texas, where the project was recorded over the course of a couple of weeks. Frontman/lead singer/guitarist Dave Grohl got the urge to record some songs upon the group's arrival in Austin for shows in early October, with the original intention of releasing the EP free to fans as a thank you for their support during the two years the band had been promoting 2014's Sonic Highways album and companion HBO documentary series. That gesture was amended following the recent Paris terrorist attacks, which caused the Foo Fighters to cancel a concert in that city three days after the attack, along with the final few dates of their world tour. The attack additionally hit a little closer to home for Grohl, as he's got strong ties with Eagles of Death Metal, who were playing at one of the locations targeted by the terrorists. The EP was subsequently dedicated to the victims and donations were encouraged on their behalf, with Grohl writing on the band's website and in the EP's liner notes that the musical gift was also "to remind us that music is life and that hope and healing go hand in hand with song".
Musically, Saint Cecilia falls neatly in line with Sonic Highways - in fact, all five tracks sound like they could have been recorded during that album's sessions. They're actually constructed from (as Grohl writes) "songs that were lost in the shuffle over the years…pieces left on the cutting room floor from every album". None of it deviates much from the Foo's signature sound, built on a heavy application of quiet-loud dynamics, deep melodies embedded amongst heavy guitars and drums, and punk spirit. The title track matches the quality level of the Foo Fighter's best work, making smart use of their three guitar attack (in addition to Grohl there's Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett) over Grohl's lyrics asking for healing and to be brought "home to your house of broken bones". Those are undoubtedly references to Grohl's leg break suffered during a Gothenburg show in June, which he commendably ended up finishing after being temporarily patched up (and thus making the most likeable guy in rock even more likeable). "Sean" delivers a concise two minutes and 11 seconds of urgent, pop-punk satisfaction, while the moody "Iron Rooster" retreats in the opposite direction feel-wise with its creeping pace and includes guest guitar from bluesman Gary Clark Jr., in addition to some thought-provoking lyrics that use a rooster weathervane as a metaphor for living a conformist life (trust me, it works). The highly aggressive "Savior Breath" finds Grohl in his finest vocal-shredding mode (I have no idea what he means when he threatens to "ride my lungs on you", but it sounds absolutely filthy) and showcases Taylor Hawkins' powerful drumming skills, which also shine on the pounding album closer "The Neverending Sigh". That last song has been hanging around in the Foo's archives for two decades now and I don't know to what extent the track has evolved over the years, but if it hasn't changed much then one wonders what kept it from replacing some of the dodgier material that overpopulated the band's studio albums from the 2000s.
Saint Cecilia keeps the Foo Fighters' hot streak going, following the excellent Sonic Highways and 2011's superb Wasting Light (which I reviewed here). The EP is much more than a "stopgap" release comprised of middling material and there's no reason not to own it if you're a fan of the band. You certainly can't beat the price.
Download the Saint Cecila EP for free here
Related Mediaboy Musings posts: my November 2009 review of the Foo Fighters' Greatest Hits album, August 2011 review of the Foo Fighters' Back And Forth documentary, and April 2013 review of Grohl's Sound City documentary