_“Do you think people like the Foo Fighters because Dave was in Nirvana?”
“No… speaking about the Foo Fighters’ music, it touches me... it makes me sad.”
“Dave’s music makes you sad?!!”
“Oh yeah. I get very sad.”
“Do you feel ashamed?”_
Real rock music is not about ‘being nice’. Feeder and Travis are nice. They’re also pasty, dull, and once professed that ‘all I wanna do is rock’. They lied.
Foo Fighters want to rock, even if it is confined to a one-dimensional, stadium setting. Perhaps that’s what separates so called ‘post-grunge’ from grunge. Grunge – even the overwrought, goofy bands like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden – started out just wanting to eat up Black Sabbath riffs and spit them out even slower and heavier. The bands that followed (Foos, Live, Puddle Of Mudd even) only ever wanted to be Cheap Trick or Bon Jovi with a little more credos. So with ‘All My Life’ Grohl’s slight discomfort with his band’s predicament finally surfaced and he aped Queens Of The Stone Age’s edgy metal, even if the power-pop chorus gave the game away. Yet the rest of * _‘One By One’*_ was nothing if not even more polished and anaemic than its predecessor. How must it feel to know that not just one, but two of the bands you drummed for, so brightly outshine your own?
To call Foo Fighters a vanity project would be to woefully undersell them. They are essentially now a fine American trad rock band with hardcore roots: songs like the melody heavy ‘No Way Back’ and ‘Best Of You’ place them as natural successors to the likes of Buffalo Tom and Screaming Trees, albeit without their finesse or subtleties. Of course, what they lack there they make up for with accessibility, universality, record sales. No harm, no foul.
There’s no frayed edges to this band. ‘In Your Honour’ wants to be Motorhead, sounds more like a sunnier Metallica, but Grohl’s voice is unable to deliver any shades of emotion. It’s a black-and-white instrument; tuneful enough on the slowies and suitable for ravaging screams when the riffs kick in, but lacking in any quality approaching character. The everyman syndrome strikes again.
Real rock music is supposed to rock. Each album since their debut has strived to rock harder than the last and yet each has succumbed to ever-increasing layers of gloss and painstaking over-production. You’d think a song called ‘DOA’ would hit pretty hard, but it’s little more than workmanlike. “It’s a shame we have to die my dear/No one’s getting out of here alive!” growls Dave, over the now familiar power chords and lifts. ‘The Deepest Blues Are Black’ would shame even Diane Warren in the power ballad stakes. Hey, that’s probably even some sort of compliment.
Like all true Buffalo Tom-ites, Foo Fighters like to think of themselves as sensitive souls. Thusly, disc two is a lesson in string-laden acoustica. Yum. “Hands on a miracle/I got my hands on a miracle,” goes the aptly-titled ‘Miracle’. It’s sweet. Perhaps something to sing a newborn to sleep to. Hmmm, ‘What If I Do’ and ‘On The Mend’ are quite a bit similar to ‘Walking After You’ from ‘The Colour And The Shape’. Which is fine. By track four, my eyes are feeling a trifle heavy. Two cans of Red Bull and a cigarette later I’m back in the land of the living only to hear Norah Jones’ silky croon spewing from my speakers. Is that a pig I see flying past my window? ‘Cold Day In The Sun’ makes me giggle, cos the riff sounds like ‘Best Sunday Dress’ by Hole. Oh the irony. But jeez, anyone with a Lemonheads album has gotta find this stuff pretty derivative, pretty insipid.
So yeah, * _‘In Your Honour’_* confirms one thing. The Foos are good at what they do: polished, melodic rock music, which rarely takes itself too seriously, offers many surprises or tumbles into flagrant self-parody. Sure, the Foos are excellent at what they do. It’s just unfortunate that what they do is so unavoidably mediocre.
4Tom Edwards's Score