Foo Fighters (Roswell/Capitol, 1995)
The Colour and the Shape (Roswell/Capitol, 1997)
There Is Nothing Left to Lose (RCA, 1999)
One by One (Roswell/RCA, 2002)
In Your Honor (RCA, 2005)
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (RCA, 2005)
Greatest Hits (RCA, 2009)
Who'd have thought it? Turns out Nirvana had two great songwriters. A year after Kurt Cobain's suicide, Dave Grohl rebounded with Foo Fighters' self-titled debut, on which he wrote and played practically everything himself. Unsurprisingly, he favors the explosive riff-rockers that let him show off his specialty, the apotheosis of punk-rock drumming. The surprises are a couple of tender pop tunes (including the hit "Big Me") and the confident melodies behind the torrential momentum of songs like "This Is a Call" and "I'll Stick Around."
By the time they recorded The Colour and the Shape, Foo Fighters had become a real band, including Pat Smear on second guitar and Sunny Day Real Estate's Nate Mendel; thanks to drummer turbulence, Grohl ended up playing most of the drums himself again. Nobody complained: On tracks like the loud-louder-loudest love song "Everlong," his drumming is a hook of its own. Colour is the classic-rock album Grohl had waiting to come out of him, with as much Queen as Pixies in its bloodline. The band piledrives everything with maximum force—"Hey, Johnny Park!" is essentially a mid-Seventies ballad with a barrel of rocket fuel under its ass.
There Is Nothing Left to Lose, featuring the full band, is a bit of a disappointment. Its lead-off single, "Learn to Fly," became a hit, but the production and songwriting seem somehow tamed. The album has way too much filler and suggests that Grohl & Co. were trying so hard to sound like everything else on Modern Rock radio that they sanded off all the splintery edges that made them exciting in the first place.
One by One is much more like it, a partial return to the attitude and force of The Colour and the Shape, with longtime live drummer Taylor Hawkins coming into his own. There are a handful of references to Grohl's get-in-the-van origins (allusions to Hüsker Dü on "Times Like These," cover artwork by Black Flag affiliate Raymond Pettibon), but the album's most exciting moments are variations on Grohl's favorite formulas: "Tired of You," where he braces for a Nirvana-style explosion that never arrives, and the radio hit "Low," whose instruments skip across the mix like stones on a white-water river.
In Your Honor, whose title reportedly referred to 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, was a double album with a split personality: The first disc rocks like an angry hurricane—so much so that the songs feel strained. The second, all-acoustic is stronger: Though Grohl's lyrics vague out, the melodies resonate, and he sounds better singing along with Norah Jones on the samba-tinged "Virginia Moon" than he does screaming on the first disc. Where In Your Honor separated the Foos' hot and cool sides, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace slams them back together: The band slips in curveballs like the sweetly country-rock reminiscence "Summer's End" and the wtf? (but still good) bluegrass-y instrumental "The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners." But when they crank back up on rockers like "Statues," the sound is a little tired.
Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).
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