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With a new release from the Foo Fighters on the way, due out the end of September 2007, I thought I'd do a little piece about the band and their music. When they first debuted, I'll admit I almost dismissed these alternative rock heroes as something of a Nirvana wannabe group. I got over that quickly though, and they became one of my favorite bands from the alternative era with some great music from across their career.
For this piece, I thought I'd present 5 of my favorite Foo Fighters songs from across their career... one from each album to be precise. These songs are also some of their more underrated works as I specifically stayed away from the big hits ("Monkey Wrench", "Learning to Fly" etc). Those songs are easily recognizable, often even by people who are not fans of the band. These songs are more some of the hidden, although not necessarily obscure (especially for fans), classics that are great reasons to be a Foo Fighters fan.
1: "This is a Call" from Foo Fighters
The opening track from the debut Foo Fighters album does give an good snapshot of their basic sound. It's alternative, but with a bit more punk rock energy infused along with some great pop hooks. It's a mix that leaves them with catchy rock songs, but still and edge and power, separating them from some of the more bland pop rock around. This song is a definite rocker, but it's lighter verses betray a bit of the band's melodic nature and classic rock influence as they seem to soar with a lighthearted energy, even over the grinding guitars and drums. Lyrically this song also has a bit of irony to my ears... just a little bit of humor in their joyous sound. If you're looking for a good indication of the Foo Fighters sound beyond the singles that got played in rotation on the radio, this is a great place to start... and just a great rock song too.
2: "Hey, Johnny Park!" from The Colour and the Shape
One of my favorite from this band, this track hits with what might be my favorite guitar riff from them. It's grander than some of their more punk-esque tracks, but has a complexity that hints a little at their more progressive side, and might indicate more of their classic rock influence than some of their other songs. The pulled back saddened verses have some great poetic lines that are delivered Dave Grohls instantly recognizable voice, but also with a soul that might not come through as often on other tracks. Combined with grand choruses with those roaring guitars back, it's a nice polarized song between the massive and the minimal. Combined with the riff that I like so much and a final verse that is just as huge as the rest, and you got a song that really hits hard, but leaves a lasting impression because of it's creativity and soul more so than it's brute force. This track also melds in great with the one that follows it on the album, "My Poor Brain", through a bit of a noise explosion. Together the songs really work well to me ear, but that also might be because I really like that song as well.
3: "Stacked Actors" from There is Nothing Left to Lose
If you ever wondered why Dave Grohl liked the Queens of the Stone Age enough to play drummer for one of their albums, this might be a song that gives you a hint. The twisted, fuzzed out riff, (and actually the entire song) recalls QOTSA so much for me that I could easily see them covering it and having it sound original as any of their own. The riff throughout is one of the reasons I like this song so much, but it's also one of the more adventurous tracks from the Foos. The riff definitely has a progressive tinge to it, but so do the pulled back, nearly lounge-like versus, with their subtle tinkling percussion and dark smoky feel. This song features a killer lead guitar line that really makes it feel a lot more towards the "rock" end of the spectrum than the more minimal "punk" end, and it features some great lyrical lines. Another one of my favorites and a great song through and through.
4: "Times like These" from One by One
If I was going to pick a single Foo Fighters song to have in my collection (song not album), I wouldn't pick any of their huge hits... I'd pick this song, which was released as a single and became hit itself I'm pretty sure. Although the album it's from does pale slightly when compared to the early Foo Fighters albums in my opinion, this song is absolutely stellar. It is more of a pop track with a catchy feel, but it also rocks with some fuzzy guitars. Why I like it so much is it's verses, both lyrically and vocally. Lyrically they are just great songwriting with some great imagery that is still grounded and doesn't come off clichÃ© despite being so pop friendly. Vocally, the timing of the words and the soaring quality that Grohl sings them with are just perfect and make this entire song just seem to glow with uplifting feelings. Although they're definitely a hard rockin' band, no doubt, this song is a sign of some spectacular songwriting and proof that they can creating powerful music that is catchy and fun to listen to all the same.
5: "No Way Back" from In Your Honor
This is my favorite song from this Foo Fighters release, primarily because of how hard it rocks... and I don't mean in a heavy metal type of way. Channeling a bit of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, the band combines punk energy that could easily out rock many of the modern bands that call themselves punk, with catchy lyrics and a great light hearted chorus. It's just a song that makes you want to rock out and move around because the energy is so infectious. Rock and roll is not entirely about huge guitars, soulful vocals and screeching guitar leads. It's also about pure raw energy and this song is a great example of what happens when a band puts turns that energy up to 11. Perhaps not the most complex song lyrically or stylistically, but then again complexity does not necessarily make for a song that is as catchy or explosive as this. Just a great rock and roll song without a doubt.
Bonus: "Have a Cigar" from Mission Impossible II Soundtrack
This song appeared on a soundtrack and was actually a collaboration between the Foo Fighters and Brian May of Queen. Taking a great song by Pink Floyd, they transform it into something entirely different. Where the original has the same swagger it is far more bluesy and psychedelic. The Foo Fighters version is more of a hard rock kick in the teeth from the very beginning. I was a fan of the original version of this song being a huge Pink Floyd fan, and although I'm not necessarily against covers, I do feel that too often bands don't do anything new with the songs, instead trying to imitate the original. This song is definitely not the Foo Fighters trying in anyway to be Pink Floyd. Instead they push the song to the extreme and it really works with Roger Waters original lyrics, making them sting and bite. Add in some killer guitar work from Brian May and you have a cover that is definitely worth checking out.
That certainly isn't a complete list of the best of the Foo Fighters by any means, but each is a great song and one of my personal favorites from this band.
If this is your first real exposure to the Foo Fighters, or you've dismissed them before for whatever reasons, they're worth taking another look at. They definitely know how to rock, and there are plenty of other catchy songs from across their albums as well.
And don't forget, the new album coming out soon... make sure to keep an eye out for that as well.