Discography Reviews – No. 3 – Foo Fighters

In honour of the late, great Taylor Hawkins, I thought I’d share my thoughts and opinions on the Foo Fighters catalogue in my latest discography dissection.

Emerging from the ashes of Nirvana, Dave Grohl stepped into the spotlight and showcased that aside from being one of the greatest drummers of all time and all-around great guy, he has the song writing chops to create one of the biggest bands in rock music. From humble beginnings to stadium slaying superstars, we’ll see the evolution album to album.

Let the journey begin…

Foo Fighters (1995) (44mins)

Right from the off, Dave Grohl hits a home run!! And when I say Dave Grohl, I mean Dave Grohl – there was no band at this point, it’s just Dave writing and performing everything!! A true solo album. This is the heaviest album to bare the Foos moniker but already contains the hooks and songwriting nous that would capture the attention and hearts of millions around the world. The first half of this album is excellent, really bottling the essence of what makes this band so good – heavy riffs, incredible drumming, bubblegum hooks and a catchiness that just sticks in your head plus the melodic beauty that is ‘Big Me’. The singles from this album are all great but it’s album tracks such as ‘Alone + Easy Target’ and especially ‘Good Grief’ that are the true highlights, the latter in particular being an absolute ripper that doesn’t get enough credit. The second half doesn’t reach the heights of the first but is worth investing your time in, with repeated listens offering up a couple of gems. This is still in their top 3 albums in my opinion and is a must listen. Highly recommended.

  • 1. This Is A Call – 9/10
  • 2. I’ll Stick Around – 9/10
  • 3. Big Me – 9/10
  • 4. Alone + Easy Target – 9/10
  • 5. Good Grief – 9/10
  • 6. Floaty – 8/10
  • 7. Weenie Beenie – 8/10
  • 8. Oh, George – 8.5/10
  • 9. For All The Cows – 7.5/10
  • 10. X-Static – 7/10
  • 11. Wattershed – 8/10
  • 12. Exhausted – 8.5/10
  • Overall – 9/10

The Colour And The Shape (1997) (47mins)

After the success of the first album it was evident that Dave would need to assemble a full band and so we get the first true Foo Fighters album. And what an album it is!! This is undoubtedly the best record they have ever released, it’s in my personal top albums of all time list and still sounds as amazing today as when I first heard it 25 years ago. It’s a huge step up from the first album in terms of sound and scope, the production by Gil Norton is huge, the range of songs offers a more rewarding listen and crucially the structuring of the track listing is perfect, allowing for highlights throughout instead of being front loaded. The addition of Nate Mendel on bass (a key player who is still an integral part of the band today) and Pat Smear, who had been a helping hand at live Nirvana performances towards that bands end, is vital for fleshing out Dave’s songwriting and giving them both a power and beauty that is beyond what he had achieved in solo form on the first record. The only person that didn’t work out was William Goldsmith who had been brought in on drums but didn’t make the cut meaning that Dave himself drums on 99% on the tracks (obviously not a bad thing!!). It contains three all time great rock tracks in ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘My Hero’ and in particular ‘Everlong’, which is just an immense song that is a pulsating ass kicker that can make you want to mosh and jump around but contains a fragile beauty that also pulls at the heart strings. The whole album is peppered with fantastic tracks though, some deserving more praise than they get, in particular album closer ‘New Way Home’ which is an exhilarating way to end the record and has always been a favourite of mine. They may never release an album as amazing as this again and honestly, there’s not many bands that could match this record for sheer quality but it’s not an albatross for the Foos and instead gave them a platform to become even bigger and continue to make the records they wanted to make. This comes with the highest of recommendation’s.

  • 1. Doll – 7/10
  • 2. Monkey Wrench – 9.5/10
  • 3. Hey, Johnny Park! – 9/10
  • 4. My Poor Brain – 9/10
  • 5. Wind Up – 9/10
  • 6. Up In Arms – 9/10
  • 7. My Hero – 9.5/10
  • 8. See You – 7.5/10
  • 9. Enough Space – 8.5/10
  • 10. February Stars – 8.5/10
  • 11. Everlong – 9.5/10
  • 12. Walking After You – 9/10
  • 13. New Way Home – 9.5/10
  • Overall – 9.5/10

There Is Nothing Left To Lose (1999) (46mins)

This is the album that saw the arrival of Taylor Hawkins on drums, who it’s hard to imagine never being a part of the Foos and even harder to imagine the Foos without him in the future. It also saw Pat Smear leave the group for the next 10 years before returning to the fold and so this record was made as a three piece, not that it dulls it’s impact any – it just accentuates what an incredible talent Dave Grohl is, handling all guitar work amidst various other instruments. This album follows a very similar formula to the previous record, with a mixture of heavier tracks and softer moments, however, the songs aren’t quite as strong this time round. That’s not to say this isn’t a quality record, opener ‘Stacked Actors’ absolutely rips your head off, ‘Learn To Fly’ is a Foos anthem and some of the lesser known songs like ‘Aurora’ are worthy of inclusion on any best of Foo Fighters lists. The record does suffer from a less exciting second half though and some of the tracks are a little Foos-by-numbers, which is something that would plague them over the next few albums. It’s a strong album and is still recommended but is a slight comedown from the first two releases.

  • 1. Stacked Actors – 9/10
  • 2. Breakout – 9/10
  • 3. Learn To Fly – 9/10
  • 4. Gimme Stitches – 7.5/10
  • 5. Generator – 8.5/10
  • 6. Aurora – 9/10
  • 7. Live-In Skin – 7/10
  • 8. Next Year – 8/10
  • 9. Headwires – 7/10
  • 10. Ain’t It The Life – 8/10
  • 11. M.I.A. – 8/10
  • Overall – 8.5/10

One By One (2002) (55mins)

Fourth album time and we see the arrival of Chris Shiflett on guitar, finally creating the core line-up that would remain together until this year. This one finds the Foos in a holding pattern – getting more and more popular, playing bigger and bigger venues but becoming a band making fantastic singles and not necessarily fantastic albums. This record is the prime example of that. Opener ‘All My Life’ is just superb, everything you could want from a Foo Fighters rocker, it blasts you out of your seat and is one of their very best. However, only the most ardent of fans could tell you how ‘Lonely As You’ or ‘Burn Away’ go – forgettable but inoffensive songs tucked away on the second (far weaker) half of the album. It’s still a good listen, mainly thanks to the opening four tracks, especially the aforementioned ‘All My Life’ and the awesome ‘Times Like These’ but does contain a handful of the least impactful tracks they’d made to date. I have to shout out closer ‘Come Back’ though, it’s their longest ever song but worth wading through the uneventful second half of the record to get to and is unfairly overlooked. Not a bad album but the formula is starting to get a little stale at this point and needs a bit of a shake up to get the band back on track.

  • 1. All My Life – 9.5/10
  • 2. Low – 9/10
  • 3. Have It All – 8/10
  • 4. Times Like These – 9.5/10
  • 5. Disenchanted Lullaby – 7/10
  • 6. Tired Of You – 7/10
  • 7. Halo – 6.5/10
  • 8. Lonely As You – 5.5/10
  • 9. Overdrive – 6.5/10
  • 10. Burn Away – 5.5/10
  • 11. Come Back – 9/10
  • Overall – 7.5/10

In Your Honor (2005) (1hr 23mins)

After taking time to work on the solo project Probot (more on which later), Dave Grohl returned to the Foos more invigorated than he had been for the past few years. Looking to do something different he set about creating a double album, one half being all electric, the other acoustic. It’s good to see the formula change but truth be told, double albums rarely work and at 20 tracks this is far too long and the separating of the electric and acoustic elements doesn’t work – it would have been far better to just make one single album out of the two halves. However, there is some quality material on here and taken on it’s own, the electric half is the most consistent set of songs they’d produced since the third album. The acoustic material, apart from ‘Razor’, whilst well played and lush sounding, just isn’t memorable enough and they faired much better with this kind of thing when they took their old material out on the road in a stripped down format on the Skin & Bones tour. Still capable of producing incredible singles, especially ‘Best Of You’, which is one of their greats, making a truly memorable and replayable album was still eluding them; this one being better than One By One (2002) but not something you automatically think to stick on when you want to spin something by this band. Still, the first half does get a recommendation from me and the whole thing is worth a listen at least once.

  • 1. In Your Honor – 9/10
  • 2. No Way Back – 9/10
  • 3. Best Of You – 9.5/10
  • 4. DOA – 8.5/10
  • 5. Hell – 7/10
  • 6. The Last Song – 7.5/10
  • 7. Free Me – 7/10
  • 8. Resolve – 7.5/10
  • 9. The Deepest Blues Are Black – 7/10
  • 10. End Over End – 7.5/10
  • 11. Still – 7/10
  • 12. What If I Do? – 6.5/10
  • 13. Miracle – 7.5/10
  • 14. Another Round – 6/10
  • 15. Friend Of A Friend – 7/10
  • 16. Over And Out – 7.5/10
  • 17. On The Mend – 6.5/10
  • 18. Virginia Moon – 5.5/10
  • 19. Cold Day In The Sun – 7.5/10
  • 20. Razor – 9/10
  • Overall – 8/10

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007) (51mins)

Probably the safest, most unadventurous Foo’s album to this point, this feels like almost a carbon copy of One By One (2002) but without the weaker tracks that hampered the latter half of that record. The problem is that it also doesn’t contain the cracking quartet of songs that kicked off that record and instead settles for solid but unspectacular. The only track that really feels like the band at their best is ‘The Pretender’ which rivals ‘All My Life’ for best opener on any of their records. Nothing on here is bad but it all just kind of drifts along and doesn’t hook you in enough to justify repeated listens. The band had been releasing new albums every 2-3 years at this point and the next would arrive after the longest break of their career to date.

  • 1. The Pretender – 9.5/10
  • 2. Let It Die – 7.5/10
  • 3. Erase/Replace – 7.5/10
  • 4. Long Road To Ruin – 7.5/10
  • 5. Come Alive – 7/10
  • 6. Stranger Things Have Happened – 8/10
  • 7. Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running) – 7/10
  • 8. Summer’s End – 7/10
  • 9. Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners – 5.5/10
  • 10. Statues – 6.5/10
  • 11. But, Honestly – 7/10
  • 12. Home – 8/10
  • Overall – 7/10

Wasting Light (2011) (48mins)

Four years is a long time but on this evidence it was exactly what the band needed!! Also, adding in a sprinkling of magic from the returning Pat Smear, creating a triple-pronged guitar assault (Iron Maiden eat ya heart out!!), helps make this an absolutely emphatic return. It’s a brilliant record, the second best of their whole career and when the only album to beat it is ‘The Colour And The Shape’ (1997), you just know how good it must be. I instantly fell in love with this record as soon as I heard it and it still holds up just as strong today, maybe even more so knowing that this would be the last time (for now?) that they’d release something this great, this vital, this exciting. There’s not a band song on here and at least 6 of the 11 tracks could easily make a Foo Fighters greatest tracks list. The best of the bunch for me is closing track ‘Walk’, it captures all the facets of the Foo’s in one song and is such an emotional release at the end of such an incredible album that nothing could follow it. Definitely check this one out if you haven’t already done so and be amazed that a band 16 years and 7 albums deep into their career can create such an essential listen.

  • 1. Bridge Burning – 9/10
  • 2. Rope – 9/10
  • 3. Dear Rosemary – 8.5/10
  • 4. White Limo – 9/10
  • 5. Arlandria – 9.5/10
  • 6. These Days – 9/10
  • 7. Back & Forth – 7.5/10
  • 8. A Matter Of Time – 7/10
  • 9. Miss The Misery – 7/10
  • 10. I Should Have Known – 6.5/10
  • 11. Walk – 9.5/10
  • Overall – 9/10

Sonic Highways (2014) (42mins)

In concept, this album sounded like it could be the most adventurous of the Foo’s career – travel to eight different cities, record in 8 different studios and take inspiration and guest spots from various musicians with links to said cities. In practice however, it’s merely a solid Foo Fighters album. Nothing really leaps out and grabs you, opening track ‘Something From Nothing’ the closest to being something great but even this falls short. There are a few tracks that do eventually worm their way into your brain but it takes a fair few listens to do so and I’m not sure the end rewards are truly worth it. You’re better off watching the tv series the band made in conjunction with HBO where you at least get to see the locations where they record and get more of a feel of what they were aiming for. A solid listen but not one you’ll return to often.

  • 1. Something From Nothing – 8.5/10
  • 2. The Feast And The Famine – 8/10
  • 3. Congregation – 7.5/10
  • 4. What Did I Do?/God As My Witness – 5.5/10
  • 5. Outside – 7/10
  • 6. In The Clear – 6/10
  • 7. Subterranean – 6/10
  • 8. I Am A River – 7/10
  • Overall – 7/10

Concrete And Gold (2017) (48mins)

This is the worst album the Foo’s have released to date, certainly the least interesting – however, it’s still not a bad record!! Too many of the tracks are just there, not grabbing you in any way and it does lack the big singles that most Foo Fighters albums contain. The closest is ‘Run’, which is the best track on here but nowhere near the heady heights we’ve grown accustomed to when put up against previous releases. It all plays out inoffensively and there’s nothing terrible but it’s all pretty much forgotten once the last note is played!!

  • 1. T-Shirt – 5/10
  • 2. Run – 8/10
  • 3. Make It Right – 6/10
  • 4. The Sky Is A Neighbourhood – 7/10
  • 5. La Dee Da – 6/10
  • 6. Dirty Water – 7/10
  • 7. Arrows – 7/10
  • 8. Happy Ever After (Zero Hour) – 6/10
  • 9. Sunday Rain – 6/10
  • 10. The Line – 7/10
  • 11. Concrete And Gold – 5.5/10
  • Overall – 6.5/10

Medicine At Midnight (2021) (36mins)

I wasn’t expecting much from this record after the previous album’s lack of life but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It takes a few listens to truly sink in but this album’s playfulness and willingness to try a few different things makes it their best release since Wasting Light (2011). It certainly doesn’t all work but I admire the band for trying something a little different but not going so far afield that they eliminate the core essence of what make’s them such a beloved band. As I previously mentioned, the key to this album is repeated plays – I wasn’t a fan on the first couple of run through’s but after awhile even the more middling tracks (‘Cloudspotter’, the title track) reveal hooks and moments that get stuck in your head. The best song on here is ‘Waiting On A War’, a track good enough to have made the track listing for Wasting Light (2011) and one which I continue to play regularly to this day. Overall, it gets a recommendation from me and after the tragic loss of Taylor Hawkins, makes me wonder just what direction (if any) the group might head in next.

  • 1. Making A Fire – 8/10
  • 2. Shame Shame – 8/10
  • 3. Cloudspotter – 7/10
  • 4. Waiting On A War – 9/10
  • 5. Medicine At Midnight – 7/10
  • 6. No Son Of Mine – 8/10
  • 7. Holding Poison – 6.5/10
  • 8. Chasing Birds – 7/10
  • 9. Love Dies Young – 7.5/10
  • Overall – 7.5/10

Miscellaneous

Probot (2004) (49mins)

If you’ve never given this album a go then you are in for a treat!! Dave Grohl recorded this as a side project in between the One By One (2002) and In Your Honor (2005) albums and it shows Dave fully embracing his love of all things metal. Dave handles everything on the instrumental side of things (his drumming, as always, being superb) aside from a couple of guest guitar contributions from Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and hands over the vocals to a selection of metal’s finest frontmen to unleash their own individual brands of heavy howling. There’s some absolute bangers on here, especially in the album’s first half and it’s a great listen throughout, especially for fans of this kind of music and who grew up with a lot of the names featured on here. Highly recommended.

  • 1. Centuries Of Sin – 8.5/10
  • 2. Red War – 8.5/10
  • 3. Shake Your Blood – 8/10
  • 4. Access Babylon – 8/10
  • 5. Silent Spring – 7/10
  • 6. Ice Cold Man – 9/10
  • 7. The Emerald Law – 8/10
  • 8. Big Sky – 6.5/10
  • 9. Dictatosaurus – 7/10
  • 10. My Tortured Soul – 7/10
  • 11. Sweet Dreams – 7.5/10
  • 12. I Am The Warlock – 8/10
  • Overall – 8/10

Skin And Bones (2006) (1hr 13mins)

Live acoustic album recorded on the In Your Honor (2005) tour, this works really well and captures the vibe that they were going for on the second disc of that album perfectly. It helps that it mixes the stronger tracks from that record with tracks from throughout their career to that point and is such an easy and relaxing listen. It’s also worth dipping into to hear their live version of ‘Marigold’, which Dave had written and released whilst still in Nirvana as a b-side to ‘Heart Shaped Box’ and the new track ‘Skin And Bones’ which doesn’t appear anywhere else.

Dee Gees / Hail Satin (2021) (39mins)

Part Bee Gees/Andy Gibb covers, part live-in-the-studio versions of tracks from Medicine At Midnight (2021), this is worth a one-off listen but really nothing more. The Bee Gees covers are played a little too straight and close to the originals to make them truly memorable, the highlight for me being the inclusion of ‘Shadow Dancing’ by almost forgotten Gibb brother Andy, who’s original version is well worth seeking out.

Dream Widow (2022) (42mins)

Released to coincide with their horror movie Studio 666 (2022) (gory fun, with the most horrific aspects being some of the acting!!), this is based on the Dream Widow band from the film and is undoubtedly the heaviest thing Dave has ever recorded. It’s even more metal than Probot!! This certainly won’t be for everyone but I think it’s great, maybe it would have been even better as an EP but it doesn’t flounder as a full length. Whisper it, it might just be the best thing they’ve done since Wasting Light (2011) – more metal please Dave. This one’s definitely recommended.

  • 1. Encino – 8.5/10
  • 2. Cold – 8.5/10
  • 3. March Of The Insane – 8.5/10
  • 4. The Sweet Abyss – 8/10
  • 5. Angel With Severed Wings – 7/10
  • 6. Come All Ye Unfaithful – 8/10
  • 7. Becoming – 6/10
  • 8. Lacrimus Dei Ebrius – 8/10
  • Overall – 8/10

Winnebago (B-Side) (This Is A Call – Single) (1995)

Awesome b-side from the very first Foo’s single, this deserved to be on the debut album. It’s an overlooked gem that deserves to be added to your Foo Fighters listening lists.

Band On The Run (Wings Cover) (2007) (Radio 1 – Established 1967 – Compilation)

The band have recorded a number of cover versions throughout their career (the majority of which can be found on the compilation album Medium Rare (2011), which is worth a listen). This is the best they’ve done, recorded for a 40th anniversary of Radio 1 compilation, they take the already awesome Paul McCartney/Wings original and inject with some Foo’s goodness to give it enough life of it’s own. It would be great if this was available on streaming services as it deserves more of an audience.

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=IvmpsVgq780&feature=share

Saint Cecilia (Saint Cecilia – EP) (2015)

The title track from a four song EP released between albums, this song is unheralded but is one of their best post-Wasting Light (2011). This could have easily slotted on that record and is far better than anything on either Sonic Highways (2014) or Concrete And Gold (2017). In fact the whole EP is worth a listen, showcasing the styles that make the band what they are, with a little something for everyone.

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