Category Archives: Foo Fighters

Wasting Light

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When did the Foo Fighters become this classic band? I’m not exactly sure, but they’re as much if not more of a radio presence, both on current and “classic” stations, as hipper bands such as Nirvana. I still think they’re a great singles band who make merely good to very good albums, but this album definitely falls in the “very good” category, and there’s no denying the number of first class individual songs the band has released over the years.

If you’re not a fan, I suggest you check out the excellent Back and Forth documentary that was released in conjunction with the promotion for this album. It documents the recording sessions for the album but also presents a thorough career overview, warts and all, but I know that I gained a further appreciation for the Foo Fighters as a band and the band as individuals after watching it. Anyway, back to this album, which was recorded by old friend Butch Vig (who remember had produced Nirvana’s Nevermind) in Grohl’s garage using analog equipment, as the band wanted to keep it real and capture the raw, unprocessed sound of a band playing live. The strategy worked very well, because the sound is definitely a throwback to their earliest (best) records, and the album is also aided by several guest appearances, including singer-guitarist Bob Mould, bassist Krist Novoselic (ex-Nirvana), singer Fee Waybill (The Tubes), and keyboardist Rami Jaffee (The Wallflowers), plus Pat Smear is back with the band as a permanent member (having already rejoined their touring ranks since 2006).

As per usual, this album will likely be best remembered by its often-played anthemic singles, and “Rope,” “These Days,” and “Walk” are all very good efforts if not among their absolute best. What distinguishes this album from their prior album is how consistently strong it is from top to bottom, as “Bride Burning” is a hard-hitting opener with a lighter catchy chorus, and “Dear Rosemary” is moodier but still rocking, with Mould adding his trademark intensity and memorably weird vocals. Elsewhere, “Arlandria” is a grower track with another big chorus, “Back & Forth” manages to have a raw sound and still be poppy, with yet another easily singable chorus, and “I Should Have Known” is an emotional ballad (mostly) whose last minute-plus (where Novoselic really shines) is among their most intense ever.

Even the lesser songs (typically the less hooky ones such as “Miss The Misery”) usually have some cool parts that make them worth listening to, as this veteran band shows that they’re still capable of surprises after all


Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Foo Fighters reunited with The Colour And The Shape producer Gil Norton, but the resulting album unfortunately ranks among the lesser Foo Fighters efforts so far. I’ve been thinking about it, and I think that there are three main problems with the band.

One is that they’ve strayed too far from their grunge/alternative roots. For example, “Let It Die,” “Come Alive,” and “But Honestly” all start slowly and eventually pick up a head of steam (and again by and large the band are much better at rockers than ballads), but all take too long to get going and never take off quite like I’d hoped. As for problem number two, I understand Grohl wanting the Foo Fighters to be a real band, but they were certainly better when he handled the drum parts (except on The Pretender track). Hawkins is a solid drummer but he’s simply nowhere near the same dynamic force behind the drum kit that Grohl is, and as a result subsequent albums haven’t quite matched the explosive pop of their first two albums. Thirdly, somewhere along the way Grohl lost his sense of humor; this guy has it pretty good, but there’s too much bitter fingerpointing on this album. That said, the current incarnation of the Foo Fighters still have their virtues. “The Pretender” and “Long Road To Ruin” can be added to the band’s growing list of terrific singles, and there are other strong efforts as well, such as the rocking “Erase/Replace” and the intense acoustic ballad “Stranger Things Have Happened.” “Summer’s End” and especially “Statues” have airy ’70s So. Cal vibes that I also find appealing, but I could live without the filler instrumental “Ballad Of The Beaconsville Miners” and the dreary finale, “Home.” “Cheer Up, Boys” is a perfect example of what’s right and wrong with the band, as it’s a standard surging melodic rocker that’s reliably pleasant and hard-hitting without being especially exciting.

I’m still glad that they’re around, as the band continues to do their part in making modern rock radio a little bit more listenable,


In Your Honor

With his band getting increasingly formulaic, culminating with the quite adequate but somewhat disappointing One By One, Dave Grohl needed a break. Enter Probot, Grohl’s heavy metal side project whereupon he co-wrote and performed songs with metal icons like Lemmy, Max Cavalera, and King Diamond. With the self-titled Probot album out of his system, Grohl and his main band reconvened for In Your Honour, easily their most ambitious album to date, and arguably their best since The Colour And The Shape.

The album is chock full of loud, anthemic rockers and contains a bevy of well-crafted soft rock compositions (a la “Walking After You”), the album’s sequencing and conception are seriously flawless. This is a 2-cd set, with the first cd containing 10 loud songs and the second showcasing 10 more slices of Grohl’s softer side. But all songs seem to blend into one another with several high profile cameo appearances from the likes of Norah Jones, Led Zepplin’s John Paul Jones, Kyuss/Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and The Wallflowers’ keyboardist Rami Jaffee. Fortunately, like I said before, almost all of these songs are good so the album is largely enjoyable anyway, even if I can’t help but think that a shorter set list that intermingled loud and soft songs was the way to go. That said, rather than focus on the albums flaws, let’s talk about its considerable strengths, shall we?

On disc 1, all the classic Foo Fighters elements are in place: Grohl and and Chris Shiflett’s guitars are crisp and loud, Hawkins and Mendel ably add heft to the bottom end, and Grohl’s alternately smooth and screaming rough vocals inevitably lead into the payoff: catchy chorus after catchy chorus. Although I marked down “In Your Honour,” No Way Back,” “Best Of You,” “DOA,” and “The Last Song” as highlights, almost every song here is a potential hit or highlight, even if the band lacks distinctive characteristics and the chance taking acumen to be truly exciting anymore. No, this disc is merely clean, highly professional arena rock (remember, Grohl has never worried about silly things like “indie credibility”) that doesn’t offer anything different but which rocks harder and with more consistent quality than any Foo Fighters album since the first two. As for the mellower second disc, it’s impressive and can never get boring. It’s largely due to the sequencing, as the songs are of a surprisingly high quality given that the band is usually much better at rocking out than on ballads. Personally, I prefer songs such as “Miracle,” “Over and Out,” and “On The Mend,” which are a little more instrumentally fleshed out, but there’s nary a truly duff track, and fans of Cobain (who “Friend Of A Friend” is about), Norah Jones (who sings the bossa nova flavored “Virginia Moon” with Grohl), and Taylor Hawkins (the band’s popular resident party animal who sings the livelier “Cold Day In The Sun”) should take particular note of those tracks.

Some albums add up to more than the sum of their individual parts, some add up to less (which is why track-by-track album reviews don’t really work), and In Your Honor is the latter case, strong though many of its individual songs are.


One By One

A lot of people seem to have really missed the Foo Fighters during their three year absence between albums. At least that’s what I think, because the rave reviews that I’m reading for this album don’t seem justified, as more and more I’m starting to think of the Foo Fighters as a great singles band who merely make good (sometimes very good) albums. Truth is, when I hear a Foo Fighters song on the radio chances are good that I’ll turn it up and sing along, but by the ninth or tenth Foo Fighters song in a row I have a hard time staying enthused. This album stands out due to its return to a grungier sound, and by the fact that it is more atmospheric and less poppy than past efforts. There are some notable highlights as well, as “Low” is a dead ringer for Queens of the Stone Agoe (whose last album and tour Grohl had played drums on, Songs For The Deaf), only with Grohl singing. I think Josh Homme taught him a thing or two about playing guitar, too, because Grohl also unleashes cool riffs on “Have It All” and “Times Like These” (which also has the album’s best lyrics and vocals), while “All My Life” has an agreeably hard-hitting chorus and “Halo” is impressively epic.

Actually, there really isn’t a bad song in the bunch, but though I generally enjoy listening to these songs I’ll be damned if I can remember more than bits and pieces of most of them afterwards. “Come Back,” an explosive and evocative epic (7:45) that ends the album with an exclamation point, is an adventurous exception.


There Is Nothing Left To Lose

With new drummer Taylor Hawkins in tow, Foo Fighters returned with the desperately titled There Is Nothing Left To Lose, which was recorded as a three-piece at Grohl’s home studio. Now, I don’t normally quote press releases, but the one I received describing this album sums it up both succinctly and well: “the Foo Fighters remind us that it is okay to play loudly and in tune, that songs can still be about girls, and that not every band needs a goddamned DJ in the mix.

Indeed, Foo Fighters have little in common with much of what you’re hearing on the radio these days (the less said about that the better), as big pop hooks anchor catchy, commercial-sounding songs such as “Breakout” and “Learn To Fly,” the album’s soaring first single. And though Dave Grohl has rocked both melodically (“This Is A Call”) and softly (“Big Me,” “Walking After You”) before, this is easily the least likely Foo Fighters album so far to have the words “alternative” or “grunge” associated with it. Grunge is dead, after all (or so everyone says), and while I for one miss the great early ‘90s likes of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Grohl has never been one to live in the past.

That said, this album has a classic rock influence that reaches back further than anything on their first two albums, and Grohl isn’t above borrowing from the past, introducing a Foghat-like riff on “Gimme Stitches” and a Frampton-styled talking fuzz box on “Generator.” Elsewhere, the band turns down the volume on the pleasingly mellow melodies of “Aurora,” “Next Year,” and “Ain’t It The Life,” while harder rocking tracks such as “Stacked Actors,” “Live-In Skin,” and “M.I.A.” likewise contain choruses that are highly melodic. Yet for all the album’s consistent quality it must be said that it could use a jolt of that old punk energy at times. Also, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, which was so named because the album was recorded before the band had a record label in place, offers consistently very good but no truly great songs aside from “Learn To Fly.” Still, this was another welcome installment by a maturing band that refuses to stay in one place, as Dave Grohl and company continue to build their own impressive legacy irrespective of Grohl’s glorious past.


The Colour And The Shape

One of the hardest things for a rock band to do is to follow up on a strong debut album, but the Foo Fighters smashed any thoughts of a sophomore slump with this stellar second album. I’m not going to get into psycho-analyzing Dave Grohl’s mindset with regards to Kurt Cobain; amazingly, Rolling Stone’s review of the album went through great pains to tell us all about Grohl’s alleged state of mind, while failing to mention much at all about the actual music on the record! What I will say is that Cobain’s death and Grohl’s then breakup with his wife seem to weigh heavily on his mind, as Grohl reveals much more of himself here than on his catchy but cryptic debut.

I’ll also note that The Colour And The Shape is more of a band effort than the Grohl-dominated debut, and that most of these songs follow a similarly soft and then loud pattern, with big riffs and an even bigger beat carrying most melodies. Grohl’s vocals are also rougher this time around, which is ironic considering that Gil Norton’s production is much smoother than what was offered up on the demo-like debut. As for the songs, the awesome power pop surge of “Monkey Wrench,” towers over everything else on the album (especially memorable is its incredible “one last thing before I quit…” section, which I always sing – make that scream – along to). However, the pulverizing (drum) pop and epic chorus of “My Hero,” the tightly coiled, extremely intense groove rocker “Everlong,” and the softly whispered ballad “Walking After You” were also deservedly popular radio tracks. Foo Fighters re-recorded a superior version of “Walking After You” for the X-Files soundtrack.

Other catchy, hard-hitting highlights include “Hey, Johnny Park!” and “My Poor Brain,” while “See You” is surprisingly sweet and melodic (actually, the album on the whole is mellower than the debut). The rest of the album is rock solid as well; maybe some of the shorter songs are on the slight side, but only the grating “Enough Space” fails to really add anything to this fine overall package.


Foo Figthers

Who knew? After several years toiling behind the drum kit with Nirvana, Dave Grohl emerged into the limelight again with a new band (though in truth he plays almost everything on this album) and this often-outstanding debut album. And let’s get this out of the way right away: yes, there are major traces of Nirvana on Foo Fighters, as the album predictably features big drums and grungy guitars. But Grohl’s voice is much smoother and his melodies considerably sunnier than Kurt Cobain’s, though like Cobain, Grohl has a (heretofore hidden) knack for killer grunge pop melodies.

“This Is A Call” and “Big Me” are great examples of Grohl’s simple but irresistible pop craftsmanship, and heavier tracks such as “I’ll Stick Around” (with it’s famous “I don’t owe you anything” refrain, thought by many to be directed at Cobain’s widow Courtney Love) are effectively rendered by a raw mix. The rest of the album has a hard time living up to that fantastic 1-2-3 punch, but songs such as “Good Grief,” “Floaty,” “For All The Cows,” and “Exhausted” also have much to recommend about them.

And though there are a couple of nondescript tracks and it’s difficult to decipher exactly what Grohl is getting at lyrically, this deliciously grungy sonic onslaught was very well-received by the masses, and rightfully so