In Your Honour 7/10
The bold or stupid decision to make a double album concludes the same way for nearly every band – with one great albums worth of songs and lots of stuff that should have been B sides. In Your Honour is no different and the choice to make one album of hard rocking songs and one album of acoustic fare – or ‘the bottle and the hangover’ as Grohl described it – further damages this record. That’s not to say there aren’t lots of great songs on both disks. Album opener and title track In Your Honour is a stirring call to arms dedicated to the legions of Foo’s fans and written specifically to be played in massive arenas. Elsewhere on the first disk classic Foo Fighters single Resolve is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon (doesn’t work as well walking around a grim Doncaster shopping centre it turns out) and The Last Song has a wonderfully sing along chorus. The main event on disk 1 is the monster single and worldwide hit Best of You, still one of the most loved tracks in the Foo’s back catalogue but I prefer second single DOA, by far the most assured song on the album and one of the best of the Foo Fighters latter career.
The acoustic disk is a surprise as Grohl had only ever really hinted at this side of his song writing on Walking After You and a smattering of others and it is a surprise to see just how good some of the softer songs come across. If you took a couple of songs off of side 1 and replaced them with the brilliant What If I Do and Another Round you would have one of the greatest albums this band had ever produced. Another Round also marks the departure from early 2000’s post grunge to classic 70’s rock in Grohl’s song writing.
One impressive thing is that the songs on In Your Honour are designed to be played in front of huge crowds, many bands have succumbed to the pitfalls of writing music specifically for this purpose (KOL, Razorlight, Coldplay to name a few) but Foo Fighters are a band that seem just as comfortable in a tiny bar as they do as festival headliners which is one of the reasons they remain perhaps the biggest rock band on the planet.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace 6/10
So the Foos entered the studio for album number six full of confidence after the huge success of In Your Honour with the intention of pushing the band ‘out of our comfort zone’ which is odd as E, S, P & G sees Foo Fighters settling into what would become their standard sound and what would also provide the blueprint for every album that followed. Grohl stated this album would be an attempt to marry the two different sounds present on In Your Honour into one satisfying whole but in reality there are no real risks taken on the Foo’s sixth album. It opens as strongly as any Foos album since The Colour and the Shape with the brilliant quartet of The Pretender, Let it Die, Erase/Replace and album highlight Long Road to Ruin but from there it all goes a bit middle of the road. Come Alive is totally forgettable Foo’s by numbers, Cheers Up Boys (You’re Make Up is Running) is nothing more than a great song title and Statues is an example of the 70s rock sound the Foo Fighters seemed to have settled into going forward.
Of the more softer efforts Stranger Things Have Happened is definitely a success and would have been one of the stronger songs on the acoustic disk of In Your Honour but But, Honestly and Home are sunny if plain additions to the long list of Foo’s filler album tracks.
It is in the first four songs and particularly mammoth singles The Pretender and Long Road to Ruin where the secret to the Foo Fighters longevity lies. Their ability to produce massive hit singles keeps them relevant in the pop mainstream whilst a reliance on their past classics and the influence of Grohl himself (plus the return of Pat Smear) keep a foot in the door of the underground music scene. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is the sound of a band resting on their laurels but when the musicianship is so accomplished it barely matters.
Wasting Light – 8/10
If Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was the smug feeling of satisfaction upon eating a particularly nice meal than Wasting Light is the bratty belch that follows. There is an urgency and insistence to Wasting Light not seen since Stacked Actors era Foo Fighters. Brilliant album opener Bridge Burning is more fast paced than anything on the previous two records and is just a really fun track. Obligatory huge single Rope sounds like the better songs from One by One and it is nice to see the Foo’s treating their own back catalogue with the same reverence they clearly hold for the 70s rock they grew up with. Maybe it is the full time return of Pat Smear or the fact they recorded this album entirely in Grohl’s garage but for the first time in a long time there seems to be a real fire in Grohl’s belly as the spiky guitars of Dear Rosemary and heavy riffage of White Limo attest to.
Wasting Light is also the first album since The Colour and The Shape that you can say if it were released by a young up and coming band people would sit up and listen and that is as big a compliment as any for a band seven albums in. It wouldn’t be a Foo’s album without a number of forgettable album tracks (A Matter of Time) but there is definitely more killer than filler on Wasting Light.
Album closer Walk is not only one of the top ten best ever Foo Fighters songs but it is also a testament to how good a songwriter Grohl is. He can marry hard rock songs, alternative post grunge and stadium fillers on the same album in a way that only the very best artists can (REM are another good example of a band with this ability).
Wasting Light is a welcome and passionate addition in a very strong back catalogue and I struggle to think of another band who could say the same thing 7 albums in.
Sonic Highways – 10/10
After the surprising brilliance of Wasting Light it was difficult to see how Foo Fighters would improve on this. I was initially excited when I heard that Grohl would be recording each song in a different American city as part of a documentary for HBO but I could never have guessed how comprehensive, emotionally charged and just downright fantastic that documentary would be. This was hinted at on the very interesting film Sound City that Grohl made about the famous Los Angelas recording studio but Sonic Highways is a different proposition. The list of artists interviewed is diverse and impressive with everyone from Arctic Monkeys to Dolly Parton having their say on cities such as New York, Austin and Los Angelas. The result is that there really is something for everyone who is a fan of music (so everyone then) to enjoy.
It is almost irrelevant that the album this process begat is actually not as thrilling as the one that preceded it. The album opens in the style we have become accustomed to – with two massive singles. Something from Nothing is fresh and catchy and probably the best thing on the album. Hot on the heels is shouty toe tapper The Feast and The Famine. From there it almost irrelevant that this is the Foo Fighters at their most indebted to Elton John, Cheap Trick, Neil Young et al. It is the story and the documentary behind the album that make this one of the most enjoyable releases of 2014. Sure there is good stuff beyond the first two tracks. Congregation will be yelled back to Grohl by fans for years to come and at only 8 songs I can confidently say there isn’t a bad song on the album but in thirty years’ time it will be the breathtaking documentary that accompanies the album that people will remember and continue to enjoy and it is for that reason that I have awarded this album full marks. For the first time in over ten years I can say I am genuinely really excited to see what Grohl and Co. will do next.
Here is part 1 for anyone that missed it: