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Record Review: The Foo Fighters

This story was published July 25, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

“Best of You,” Foo Fighters’ new radio single, begins with the lyrics, “I’ve got another confession to make.” That phrase sums up most of what this record has to offer. In Your Honor is a two-disc compilation: The first CD has guitar-heavy, soaring hardcore and the second shows off some introspective, melody-conscious acoustic rock.

In a FF press release, singer Dave Grohl explains, “[by making two contrasting albums and] splitting the difference, you eliminate the middle ground. We can make the acoustic record far more delicate and beautiful and atmospheric than anything we’ve ever done … and we can make the rock record far more brutal and aggressive and powerful than anything from our past.”

And that’s exactly what they’ve done — just when we thought Grohl couldn’t dig any deeper, he breaks through with the most personal lyrics yet.

Most of the album is kindhearted, interesting and empathetic. My biggest complaint, lyrically speaking, is the annoying repetition of the chorus in “Best of You.” (As a note, this song is both the biggest radio smash and the worst track on either disc.)

In Your Honor was recorded in 12 days at Grohl’s studio in Alexandria, Va. The short time span lends intensity to both CDs, adding depth and character instead of diminishing the calmness of the acoustic tracks.

The acoustic disc has a line-up that could kick TRL to the curb, including piano and mandolin from legendary Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Other notable contributions come from Norah Jones, producer Nick Raskulinecz and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme.

“Still,” the five-minute opener to the acoustic disc, is one of the best songs on either CD. Its smooth and creamy flow is capped by finger-picked guitar and an unusual sweetness in Grohl’s voice, but the song’s best feature is the bare, syncopated thrum of the piano. Used to punctuate refrains, the low notes from the keys make the song seem important and profound. That’s deep, man.

The rock album has its moments, like “The Deepest Blues are Back” and “End over End,” but the real genius is in the acoustic stuff. There’s something lacking in the harder songs — it’s like the bottom level of the music just isn’t there.

I’ve had that problem with other FF records, the fact that the band misses that clean rock sound and their product sounds too fuzzy. Honestly (just like the lyrics, I too have a confession to make), I’ve never been that into the Foo Fighters.

I think Grohl and the band are a washed-out version of what they could be. It’s aggravating to know that members of Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, Jackson United and Probot are satisfied writing sugary mainstream hits like “Times Like These” and “Walking After You.” In my mind, the FF regain a little street cred through “Breakout’s” energy, the catchy chorus to “My Hero,” and the epic awesomeness of “Everlong.” But, I still feel that the Foo Fighters are wasting their potential — they’ve chosen to make margarine instead of butter.

In Your Honor is the kind of album that I would recommend to new Foo fans, despite the mediocrity of the rock songs. It’s a direct clue to what the Foo Fighters can — and can’t — do.

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