et’s face it, most who ever really cared about Dave Grohl’s music wrote him off sometime around the release of There Is Nothing Left To Lose. At the time it came out, rock music was in worse shape than it quite possibly had ever been before. Nu-metal was king, and you either liked that, or you scurried off to the cave with the other rock nerds in search of comfort. Grohl and company, while never going into nu-metal territory, nonetheless did veer more into arena rock-type anthems, an area that they had dabbled in on their second release, The Colour and the Shape. The results were commercially successful (it was their best selling album), but in an effort to attract an audience whose fickle tastes change faster than Diana Ross’ clothes while hosting the American Music Awards, the band left ardent supporters behind.
Sessions for the group’s fourth album turned into a tiring affair for Grohl. Lasting for more than four months, the band ended up jettisoning an entire album's worth of material, and Grohl, in an effort to shake things up, played drums on Queens of the Stone Age’s latest album, even going so far as to do a short club tour with the band. Industry rumors ran rampant that the band was finished and that Grohl was now permanently a member of Queens.
Seemingly reinvigorated after the tour with Queens, Grohl and the rest of the band (drummer Taylor Hawkins, bassist Nate Mendel and guitarist Chris Shiflett) went back into the studio to cut an album that would prove to be their best work yet.
The opener, “All My Life”, is a kick in the balls to all those who doubted their abilities. Hawkins pounds the rhythms out mercilessly, all the while fuzzed-out guitars storm the ear canals of the listener. “Done! Done! Onto the next one!”, Grohl screams out towards the end of the song, as the worlds-colliding sound of the band comes together. Hawkins’ use of the ride cymbal on this track is positively enthralling to hear.
”Low” is a propulsive number, driven by Hawkins’ massive tom rolls and the guitar interplay of Grohl and Shiflett. Sounding as if the apocalypse is rolling down the street, this is the Foos at their most audibly massive on the album.
Grohl’s voice is filled with venom on “Disenchanted Lullaby”, screaming, “I may be scattered / A little shattered / What does it matter? / No one has a fit like I do”. This energy is consistently matched on one amazingly hard-rocking song after another. From “Halo” to “Burn Away” to the maximum fuzz that is “Overdrive”, the band tops everything that they have released before this album.
On the final track, “Come Back”, the influence of recording and touring with Queens of the Stone Age is clearly shown. The song is thick with the sludgy sound of that group, even down to the tribal drone that is found on most of their songs. The guitars repetitively churn out the same riff, while Mendel's bass brings the bottom lower than any other Foo song previously.
Grohl may have been buying some serious indie cred by recording and touring with Queens of the Stone Age, especially by slipping into the role of drummer again, but there is no denying the power of this album. Whereas the Queens had held the greatest hope for the big rock album of the year and failed, the members of Foo Fighters, severely behind the 8 ball, rose to the challenge and hit every mark with perfection. Sustaining this level of intensity and this burning desire to truly "matter" again may prove hard to sustain, but, at least for now, they have earned the respect of one fan again.
Reviewed by: Brett Hickman
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01