nate mendel

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape (remastered)

FOO FIGHTERS – The Colour and the Shape (Originally 1997, 2007 Sony Legacy edition)

Sometimes, an album is just perfect.  Nothing needs to be added or taken away.  It is simply right the first time.

The Foo Fighters got it right the first time when they released The Colour and the Shape in 1997  At 47 minutes, it was already a bit longer than the average album, but what a towering 47 minutes they are!  There is a reason that The Colour and the Shape is consistently the album that all others are compared to.  It’s that one magical, flawless album that can never be equalled no matter what Dave Grohl & Co. come up with next.

The Colour and the Shape was a product of its time and all the things Grohl was going through.  The drummer (William Goldsmith) was fired mid-way and Dave re-recorded all the drums himself, bar two ballads.  Maybe that’s one reason that the album is so special.  When Dave plays the drums, the energy level goes through the roof and comes out the speakers.  That’s what happens on “Monkey Wrench”, “My Hero”, “Everlong”, “New Way Home” and “Hey, Johnny Park!”, five of the most exciting tracks.  The energy simply cannot contained.  The Law of Conservation of Energy dictates that it all comes out of your body as you rock to this album!

Of one were to give a negative critique to any of this album, it might be Grohl’s screaming on “My Poor Brain” and “Enough Space” among others.  It is true:  Grohl chips the paint with his voice from time to time.  This works though, as an appropriate contrast to the soft melodies of “Walking After You” and “February Stars”.  The album is well rounded.  It joyfully careens from those heavy blasts, to quiet acoustic bits of pop glory.

The Colour and the Shape has the songs, it has the riffs, and mindblowing drums.  It has the vibe, and it reeks of passion.  Whatever Grohl was going through at this time, it ended up in the music.  The production by Gil Norton is a bright contrast to the lo-fi of the debut album Foo Fighters.  It simply cannot be improved upon.  Even the lyrics go full circle.  Listen to “Doll” and “New Way Home” and see if you catch it.

When Sony Legacy added seven bonus tracks, it beefed the album up to well over an hour.  If you listen to the CD as a whole, it completely changes the listening experience, and not in a good way.  It’s Coke vs. New Coke.  Adding essentially a third side of B-sides doesn’t make it better.  It would be advised to collect the original Foo Fighters singles from which these tracks were taken.  And if you do, you’ll get more songs that weren’t included on the Sony Legacy, such as live and acoustic versions.  Of the bonus tracks, the Gary Numan cover “Down in the Park” is particularly exceptional.  The new liner notes by bassist Nate Mendel are quite cool.

The Colour and the Shape is one of the best albums of 1997, if not the very best of that year.  It’s tough to beat and adding bonus tracks didn’t do the trick.  Therefore, The Colour and the Shape gets two ratings:

Original 1997 CD:  5/5 stars

Sony Legacy 2007 CD:  4/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP (2016 vinyl)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
 Mike and Aaron are doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums that these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

Aaron’s review: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP

FOO FIGHTERS – Saint Cecilia EP (2016 RCA vinyl)

You know what really grinds my gears? How the media goes ape-shit gaga over every fart or burp that Dave Grohl makes.

The only problem with that is, most of what Dave Grohl says and does is usually quite good.

He’s been on a roll lately, too. The last real clunker he’s released (under any guise, be it Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures, or whoever else) was Foo Fighters’ One By One. None of the following albums could be considered poor by any stretch, though Wasting Light has to be the high water mark of them. Perhaps Grohl’s only weakness is his prolific output. After a while, many of the songs just blur together in a haze of Fooey rock.

Saint Cecilia, released on iTunes last year but only now getting the vinyl treatment, is another quality Foo Fighters release. They dedicated its release to the victims of the terrorist attacks on the Bataclan hall. As usual, it boasts a variety of Foo stylings, all of them loud.

“Saint Cecilia” has become a radio smash, and while its indistinguishable from any other fast melodic Foo rocker, it does stick to your brain. This is my favourite kind of Foo Fighters song anyway — fast, easy to remember, guitar-heavy and loaded with killer drums. A great albeit obvious choice for a single. Faster still is “Sean” recalling Dave’s punk roots. It recalls the sound of the first Foo Fighters album back in ’95, but amped up with a full three guitar band. Two minutes, in-and-out, that’s it for “Sean”. Then “Savior Breath” is vintage metal, making this three genres in three songs and nine minutes! It’s good stuff and even boasts a pretty smoking 80’s guitar solo.

The B-side of the EP commences with the nifty acoustic “Iron Rooster”. It has a cool atmospheric vibe, peaceful, but with the occasional loud bursts of electric guitar. It’s the only break on an otherwise pretty relentless stream of music. “The Neverending Sigh” is anything but. It’s instead a blast of riffage, three guitar’s worth and layered effectively. It defies categorization so we’ll just call it pure Foo Fighters. It’s action packed, complex and it qualifies as one of the finest Foo Fighters compositions in recent memory. Bully for you, Mr. Grohl and Co.!

Incidentally, according to the liner notes, Foo Fighters lineup appears to have expanded to a six piece. Joining Dave, Taylor, Pat (Smear – guitars), Chris (Shiflett – guitars) and Nate (Mendel – bass) is Rami Jaffee on keyboards, listed as a member of Foo Fighters. That’s cool. I always seem to get excited when a band expands its lineup. It’s my Kryptonite!

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Greatest Hits (CD/DVD set)

These 16 songs are what we’re calling our “Greatest Hits.” Not to be confused with “Our Best Songs” or “Our Favorite Songs,” it is a collection of the songs that have defined our band’s identity to most people over the years. The other 65 album tracks… well, some of those might be our greatest songs. “Aurora”, “New Way Home”, “MIA”, “Exhausted”, “A320” … depends on whom you ask. Personally, I don’t think we’ve written our greatest songs yet. But that door is always open. – Dave Grohl, 2009

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FOO FIGHTERS – Greatest Hits (2009 Roswell Records CD/DVD set)

November 2009 was a great month for Dave Grohl fans, with this release of their Greatest Hits CD, a slew of Nirvana, and Them Crooked Vultures. As far as the hits disc goes, I would recommend that you purchase the version that comes with the bonus DVD. It includes almost all of the Foo’s wonderful witty and goofy music videos as well as live cuts.

I actually don’t have too many beefs with the CD track listing itself. Granted, Foo singles and Foo album tracks are often two different beasts and equally good. As Dave points out in the liner notes (great liner notes by the way) maybe “Aurora” should have been included in a tracklist of the “best” Foo songs. More songs from the first album could have been here. I’m sure you could pick out a dozen more. All the tracks here are singles or new songs. By and large though, no big deal, as long as you dig deeper into the Foo catalogue after hearing this CD.

What about those two new songs?

“Wheels” has a neat opening riff that sounds like country music with feedback! I like this song alot. Honestly, I think this is a country song in disguise. Imagine Dwight Yoakam doing it. See what I mean? As far as Foo songs go, maybe this would fit right in with There Is Nothing Left To Lose material. Great chorus, there’s even a little twang in the chorus. It has an epic quality. Cool crashing chords in the chorus, too.

“Word Forward” starts acoustic, punctuated with some electric guitar. Not quite as strong as “Wheels”, the melody is a bit more awkward. This sounds more like B-side material to me. It’s a shame because I quite like the clean-picked opening guitar, the dynamics, and a lot of the chords, it’s just the melodies of the song that don’t work for me.

IMG_00001618_editThe flow of the songs isn’t perfect. A song like the electric version of “Everlong”, to me, is a song that goes on the later half of a CD (aka “side 2” to us old folks). To me it’s a song that builds up to a closing climax of an album. If I had chosen this exact same track list, I would have had the songs in a different order so they flow better in terms of mood. Also, I think a few too many fast Foo tracks are presented in a row without enough of their wonderful slower songs to break things up. Look at the first four tracks in a row: “All My Life”, “Best Of You”, “Everlong” and “The Pretender” are four fast heavy ones in a row, followed by “My Hero” which is still pretty heavy. It’s like putting your foot on the gas pedal and not taking it off even when your passenger is giving you terrified looks!

The album ends with an acoustic version of “Everlong” (not from the Skin and Bones CD, this is an unreleased 1996 demo). While this spare, Grohl-only version of the most epic of epic Foo songs is great, as a closer it’s not my choice, at least not for an album like this. It kind of left me hanging.  I’m not bitching about getting an unreleased demo of a classic song, I just don’t think last was the right place in the running order for it.

I can only give the CD-only version 3.5/5 stars, because it’s a little underwhelming and I’m sure you, as a fan, could have made a better mix CD. Pick up the version with the DVD — 4.5/5 stars on that one.

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Live In Rio 2001

Next in line of my reviews from Record Store Excursion 2012!  Check out the video below if you missed it.  This one bought at Sonic Boom Music at Bloor and Bathurst.

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO

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FOO FIGHTERS  – Live In Rio 2001 (2012 IMC Music Ltd.)

This is sort of an oddball release, fully 11 years after the concert itself, on some weird label called Immortal.  This is probably taken from the Rock In Rio 2001 broadcast.  Bootlegs from that show are pretty common.  I have a Guns N’ Roses bootleg from the same concerts.  I believe they were on pay-per-view.

I’ve heard some people complain that Dave Grohl screams too much live, and he certainly does scream a lot in this show.  If you’re not into it, I get it.  It doesn’t bother me personally.  His vocals are a bit shaky, as it sounds like he’s doing a lot of jumping around.

Sound quality is decent.  I look at these as really well made bootlegs.  Don’t expect anything that sounds like a flawless modern live album.  It’s perfectly listenable though.  You can hear all the instruments clearly enough (although bass is a bit muddy) and Dave’s vocal/screaming is up front and loud.

The setlist is jam packed full of early Foo classics.   13 songs, plus a little bit of “Happy Birthday” as the following day (Jan 14th 2001) was Dave’s birthday!

Amusingly, Dave dedicates “Monkey Wrench” to Guns N’ Roses who were playing the following day.  Dave says he’s never really seen Guns N’ Roses before.  Well, isn’t that Kurt’s fault, Dave?  You could have opened for them on the 1992 tour with Metallica!

There’s one weird flaw with the CD.  At the beginning at track 14, “Everlong” (not even listed on the CD), the wrong song begins.  Instead, it’s “Stacked Actors” which is also track 6.  This goes on for over two minutes, and finally it fades into a truncated “Everlong”.  I have no explanation.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Wasting Light (2011 CD, iTunes edition)

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FOO FIGHTERS – Wasting Light (2011 Roswell Records)

The much anticipated new Foo Fighters album was a big deal to us fans — for the first time, a five-man lineup, three guitar players, and the return of Pat Smear. In other words this album has the same lineup as the glorious Colour and the Shape era of the band, plus Chris Shifflet. Add on expert production by Butch Vig, mixing by Alan Moulder. It sounds glorious! What it lacks in the diversity from the previous two albums, it makes up with the sheer youthful energy from the first two.

Wasting Light hits you right away with the one-two punch of “Bridge Burning” and “Rope”, fast jagged hard rock songs with riffs and Grohl screams. Not totally immediate, but they set the stage for some of the best tunage the Foos have ever laid to wax.

The dark and powerful “Dear Rosemary” is the first bonafide classic on this album, and you can definitely hear the benefit of the three guitars as rhythm & catchy licks merge into one moving whole.  “Dear Rosemary”, features Bob Mould (Husker Du) sharing lead vocal duties.  What an incredible song.  It was a bit of genius inspiration, working with Mould on it.  The result is an instant classic, one of the best Foo tunes in the canon.  (A Foo-Du tune?)

“White Limo” starts with a brutally heavy metal riff, something that harkens back to Voivod, with Grohl doing his best distorted metal screams overtop. This is primo thrash metal, a total surprise for me. I always knew Grohl was a metalhead, but I didn’t expect anything this overtly metal to appear on a Foo Fighters album. But it’s a welcome change, and my current favourite song for pure adrenaline pumping energy.

“Arlandria” starts slower, but builds to a melodic, dramatic chorus with crashing chords and cymbals. By this time the album has begun to take shape: It has melody but the foundation is the guitar riffage. “These Days” is a total change of pace, a much softer song, but still propelled forward by the beats of Taylor Hawkins, and of course the guitars still crash come chorus time.

“Back and Forth” has a pretty crummy snare drum sound, but Nate Mendel’s bass rings clear and true underneath. It takes a while to get going, but the chorus is still solid. “A Matter of Time” is the weakest song so far, an awkward, jagged non-standout rocker.

“Miss the Misery” is a return to form, starting with a brief “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” drone before settling into an i irresistible set of melodies, punctuated by catchy guitar licks buzzing in and out of the mix. Again, you can hear where three guitar players is coming in handy, as there is a lot going on here guitar-wise. Fee Waybill on guest vocals! Next, Nirvana fans will be excited by an appearance by Krist Novoselic on “I Should Have Known”. Including Pat Smear, this is a reunion of the three surviving members of the final Nirvana lineup, a little mini-historic event in the annals of rock. It is a slow mournful song, with Grohl’s voice back in the mix, singing “I cannot forgive you yet”. It is a beautiful song, and a welcome change of pace. Novoselic’s bass, when it kicks in about halfway, just rumbles. It ends as dramatically as anything else on the album.

The standard edition of the album closes with a song called “Walk”. This is a brighter song, guitars chiming and ringing, and exactly the way an album like this needs to end. But suddenly the pace picks up, and the guitars cascade like the greatest Foo songs of old. This one reminds me, for a number of reasons including riffs, melody and pacing, of “New Way Home”, the awesome closer from Colour and the Shape.

The Foos have created another fine album, not an easy thing to do when you have albums like Colour and the Shape and In Your Honor under your collective belts. They certainly have lost nothing to age, and they have not exhausted their energies. I also think that, after two very diverse albums, it was exactly the right move to return to a predominantly rock direction for this album. It re-grounds the bands back to their roots.

It’s not over yet though, as the iTunes and Japanese editions of the album have bonus tracks. iTunes have an absolutely useless remix of “Rope” by Deadmau5. I guess people who like this kind of music will appreciate it, but it has no place on an album like this. It is monotonous and boring, a waste of five minutes of my time. Much more appropriate is another song called “Better Off”. “Better Off” is almost Beatles-y in melody, but with heavy layered guitars pummeling your ears. I love the lyrics as well — “You know you’re better off, you bastard!”

Wasting Light has been a great and pleasant surprise to me. I wasn’t sure what direction the Foo Fighters were going to take with this record, but I’m pleased that they took a step back to guitar-based basics, yet still retained all the lessons they learned about melody, songwriting and arranging.

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BONUS! Just to do something special and unique, and to make a point about recording this album straight to analog tape (no computers!), Dave Grohl has sliced up his original master tape for Wasting Light, and included a piece inside the first run of the CD. Cool, man.  Worth hunting down a first pressing for, if you care about such things!

5/5 stars!