October 31, 2002

What the Foo?

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Dave Grohl is a musical guru. Whether you like his music or not, he has been one of the most successful musicians over the past decade. That is why tearing apart his latest production with the Foo Fighters is so hard. Let’s take a brief look at Mr. Grohl’s career. Ok, you’re the drummer for Nirvana, whose 1991 album Nevermind ranks among the best and top selling albums ever. Your band is much responsible for the upbringing of Seattle’s grunge movement and changing the historic course of rock and roll. After successful Unplugged in New York and In Utero albums are extremely well received, your lead singer decides to kill himself while trying to kick his drug addiction. But why stop with one successful band? Grohl goes on to start The Foo Fighters a little over two years after Cobain’s death. The Foo’s first release was their self-titled album in 1995 that stayed true to the Nirvana sound and had big hits with “Big Me” and “I’ll Stick Around.” However, it was the 1997 release The Colour and The Shape that stands as the band’s masterpiece. Songs like “Everlong” and “Hero” helped Grohl escape being typecasted as a Seattle sap and earned him respect as a diverse front man. He was no longer known as “that dude from Nirvana that used to have long hair.”

Shape was nominated for Best Rock Album that year at the Grammy’s and it is on my personal top-ten list (as if that compares to getting a Grammy nomination). Two years later came the somewhat poppy transition There is Nothing Left to Lose. The album lacked the electricity that their previous gem had, but songs like “Learn to Fly,” “Next Year,” and “Break Out” did well on the charts. These hits as well as the band’s previous albums’ platinum status made Nothing Left a commercial success. Now, after a three-year break, these boys are back with the much-anticipated album, One by One. So, the question after listening to it is, ‘why does this album suck?’

Truthfully, One by One is a misfire for several reasons. After listening, I had no idea what the band was going for. The only coherent thing I saw out of these 11 tracks is a recession back into the less polished grunge that the band debuted. Sadly, One By One lacks everything that Foo is good for. The band’s sound is flat, repetitive, and uninvitingly bland, as if their old sound is a well-tailored suit that just doesn’t fit them anymore.

At times I thought my CD player was skipping because each song got caught up in itself. The opening song is the first released single “All My Life.” This track goes all over the place from whispering vocals, to hard drumming, guitar solos , and screaming while never finding a decent beat. When the first-released single and opening track of an album fails, it never looks good for the remaining songs. And, unfortunately the other ten tracks failed to escape the uncatchy curse of “All My Life.” The album is simply annoying and I found myself apologizing to my friend that was listening with me. “It’s for the Sun, I promise it’ll be over soon.” I told her several times. To think that this is the same band that put out The Colour and The Shape five years ago means one of four things: Either they ran out of material, they haven’t taken enough time off from touring and the studio, they’ve partied too hard, or they haven’t partied hard enough. With this album, no song stands out. Most of them are extremely similar, and the ones that are different don’t deviate in a positive way.

At best, a few songs got my attention for a minute or two, and then they would go on an uncalculated tangent or repeat what I liked ten more times. “Come back” is the nearly eight-minute closer that features the same chords and verses over and over and over and over. If you think that sentence is annoying don’t listen to the song. Is it a coincidence that the last song is called “Come Back”? Did the Fighters know they were losing their audience and then wanted to plead last second for their fans to stay? Possibly. Regardless, Dave Grohl is a rock magician. His band contains some of the most talented dudes that have crossed the MTV generation in the past five years. I simply do not understand why this album was made. It took three years to produce and release and it seems like it took three weeks to record. I would say if you are a hardcore Foo fan, go out and get it. But from one Foo fan to another, I’ve got to say I was extremely disappointed. I still believe that Mr. Grohl and the band has potential to put out another quality album or two. Sure, One By One is a huge step backwards, but if Grohl bounced back from Nirvana’s unexpected ending to bring this band to its current status, there is no doubt that the Foo Fighters will eventually, like the last song promises, come back.

Archived article by Dan Cohen