Saint Cecilia isn’t just the name of the hotel in Austin, Texas where Foo Fighters recorded this surprise five-track EP; she was also a second-century martyr canonised as the patroness saint of musicians, a community who are still in shock following the tragic events in Paris earlier this month. Dave Grohl can’t not have something to say on that subject – it’d be like the President skipping the weekly radio address after a national tragedy – but the attacks had a personal dimension for him: not only were they the reason behind the cancellation of yet another string of European Foo Fighters shows, but Grohl’s friends the Eagles Of Death Metal were on the ground in the Bataclan itself.
These five songs were actually written and recorded prior to the attacks, but given Foo Fighters’ history with holistic everyman anthems of wounded defiance, it’s no surprise to find them striking an appropriate tone on the title track. “Bring me some healing, Saint Cecilia carry me home/ To your house of broken bones”, implores Grohl, checking off the usual boxes (quiet-loud-quiet, solo in the middle, screaming to finish) but to more satisfying effect than just about anything on last year’s ‘Sonic Highways’.
Elsewhere, ‘Sean’ marks a welcome returns to a far older Foos tradition of wanting to be Hüsker Dü, eschewing the bloat of recent albums in favour of the leaner, punchier sound of their youth. But it’s ‘Savior Breath’ that feels like the real throwback: a cantankerous juggernaut of Motörhead riffs, hair metal guitar and Grohl snarling something about wanting to “ride my lungs on you” (us neither, but it has a certain ring to it). It’s such terrific fun, you can’t quite fathom how the same band could be responsible for something like ‘Iron Rooster’, which moseys on far too long and a little too close to Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ for comfort, but normal service is thankfully resumed with ‘The Neverending Sigh’, ensuring the record ends on a fittingly-thunderous note. Quite aside from the sad circumstances of its release, if ‘Saint Cecilia’ is foreshadowing the Foo Fighters’ next move, the omens look good.