I've made it no secret here that when it comes to the Foo Fighters I'm a fan of their older, simpler, more straight forward stuff - I continue to invest in their output because quite honestly there is a nostalgia factor with this band conceived around the time of their first album that I still rings true in their current output though admittedly way more sporadic and way more muffled in it's impact. That's not to ignore the idea that the music they do now isn't good to me, it's just lost the charm of their early material. Sonic Highways is a good rock record, but for me it's the worst thing they've ever done. Too big, too elaborate, too bombastic, and too epic. No matter how loud you turn up Foo Fighters and Colour and The Shape, they still sound quiet - and though that may seem oppositional to everything a band like this stands for as possibly the last arena rock band of our lifetime, it's in that juxtaposition that I find that aforementioned, and for lack of a better term, charm.
Saint Cecilia is a reckoning back to those days - and although it doesn't mirror the kind of production value that may have been a defining characteristic of their first few albums for me, the song writing and the energy behind the recorded tracks feel like a direct wormhole to the sessions of the mid to late 90's. Turns out, the band has admitted to utilizing riffs, ideas, and old unreleased demos that never saw the light of day (a feat in and of itself in this day and age) that ranged back as far as 20 years ago. The title track manages to palpate the arena-easy dynamics of some of their later work but never dips into becoming too pretentious, and instead harkens back to vibes of "Learning To Fly" and "Generator" - probably because they didn't have the time to throw on a whole bunch of other superfluous instrumentation. "Sean" is a quick and somewhat whimsical pop-punk driver that seriously sounds as though it was ripped directly from the tracklist of Colour and the Shape, and most would slap me for saying so, but it's also quite possibly my favorite thing they've done in some 15 years. "Saviour Breath" is cut from the same cloth as a juiced up "Weenie Beenie", "Iron Rooster" is Nothing Left To Lose era Foo balladry, and closer "The Neverending Sigh" stands alone as what I hope represents a band stepping back as a step forward - as it subtly morphs from a drive to a glide in it's momentum throughout.
In all it's glory Saint Cecilia sounds like the lost stepping stone between Colour and the Shape and Nothing Left To Lose - and while it seems as though that's all I'm dwelling on here, even standing alone from everything else they've done it's a damn fine album - of course I've always been a sucker for the not-wearing-out-your-welcome glory of the Extended Play format. I can't be comfortable in whether or not the album turned out the way it did on purpose or not; I mean, I know some of the ideas were more than two decades old, but how much of it's sound was also the result of the album being a free EP? And possibly a sit down and knock it rush recording before finally getting to take that extended hiatus? Either way, they've earned some of my trust and heart back with this one, and that's saying a lot. Do yourself a favor and download it (it's free!), and while you're add it throw "Empty Handed" from their Songs From The Laundry Room EP onto it as an opener to create a nice little half an album's worth of material that feels like a new them when they were at their best. That song sounds in every way like it should have been on the self-titled debut. Keep it up, stop "evolving" and stop trying to "save" rock 'n roll.