Foo Fighters rose from the ashes of Nirvana, which I’m sure most people growing up in the 90’s are well aware of. After Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain tragically committed suicide in April of 1994, drummer Dave Grohl was at a loss as to what to do and how to carry on. After 6 months, he decided to attempt to shake himself out of his post Nirvana funk by recording some of his favourite songs that he had written over the past few years, playing all the instruments himself, with the exception of one additional guitar on one of the tracks. He used the recordings as the basis to start a band, and Foo Fighters was born, with Grohl taking the position of lead singer and principle songwriter. They’ve had their ups and downs, with drug addiction, band members leaving, and then rejoining, and even endured almost completely falling apart at one point. Somehow though, they’ve managed to last 22 years and counting, becoming one of the most popular rock bands in the world in the process. You could argue (and some people do) that Grohl never would have made it as far as this without Nirvana. I disagree though. Foo Fighters may not have a flawless album discography, but when they’re good, they’re fucking magnificent. Nirvana may have brought them some attention initially, but I would suggest that this could only carry a band so far before people would stop paying attention or caring. They certainly wouldn’t be this huge, with a 2 decade career and 8 albums to their name. And so to that end, here’s all 8 Foo Fighters albums ranked from worst to best.
08. One By One
For their fourth album, Foo Fighters were in turmoil. The aforementioned near dissolution of the band resulted from a recording session that cost over $1m dollars (dubbed the million dollar demos). It prompted Dave Grohl to join Queens of the Stone Age for a brief period, resulting in him getting his creative mojo back. It’s ironic then, that while he was the drummer on Q.O.T.S.A’s best album, he ended up going back to his main group and putting out the Foo’s weakest record within the same year. One By One is an album that I did love quite a lot at the time. Having just broken up with my first girlfriend, the albums 11 songs, largely on the theme of the trials and tribulations of love proved to be quite cathartic. Once the dust had settled though, the album failed to live up to scrutiny. Even the band themselves became dismissive of it. The most glaring portion which feels particularly lacking is the last three songs, all of which are sadly quite forgettable, merely serving as filler. Still, “All My Life, “Have It All” as well as the criminally underrated and overlooked “Lonely As You” were among the finest Foo Fighters recordings up to that point. The sessions also yielded the inexplicably non-album gem “Walking a Line”
Essential Tracks: All My Life, Have It All, Lonely As You
07. Sonic Highways
For their 8th LP, Dave Grohl promised the band were “going to make [the] album in a way that no one’s ever done before.” The upshot of that intriguingly bold statement was that the band were going to record each song in a different city in America, with the resultant songs thematically tied to whichever city they were recorded in. It was a fine idea on paper, and the relatively short tracklist for the record was almost perversely ambitious. If there’s only 40 odd minutes of music and eight songs, not relying on any filler, the album is bound to be immense, right? Well sadly, while the accompanying HBO series is excellent by all accounts (I have yet to see all of it, shamefully) the album falls short of matching up to the brilliance you would hope from such a project. The opening two tracks give the double-punch of “Something From Nothing” and “The Feast and the Famine,” starting off the record on the exact path you would hope for. The middle four songs vary from the cheesiness of “Congregation” to the middle of the road plodding of “In the Clear.” The remaining two tracks close the record on an ameliorated note, but it’s not enough to save the album overall. It’s probably worth noting that friends of mine have assured me that when you watch the aforementioned TV series, the album makes a lot more sense, and serves to elevate the record to a huge degree. I do plan to reassess the album upon watching the series, but until then, Sonic Highways will remain on the lower ranks of the Foo Fighters discography for me.
Essential Tracks: I Am a River, The Feast and the Famine, Something From Nothing
06. In Your Honour
After 2002’s One By One, surviving their near breakup, and finally having what seemed to be a stable line up, the Foo’s opted for the ambitious step of releasing a double album. Added to this huge leap, they also decided to have the first half as heavy rock and the second all acoustic. Weirdly enough, given that the band aren’t known for their acoustic ballads or slower numbers, generally speaking (with the exception of some portions of There Is Nothing Left to Lose and songs like “Walking After You” and “See You” from The Colour and the Shape), the acoustic half of the record ended up being the better of the 2 discs. In fact, with the exception of “Over and Out,” the mellow portion of In Your Honour is almost flawless. The rock disc on the other hand, while decent, unfortunately has some lackluster tracks like “End Over End,” as well as the worst single the band have ever released with “Resolve.” Seriously, fuck that song. Regardless, overall In Your Honour is by no means a bad album. It was also a stepping stone to a far, far better album that the band would put out two years later.
Essential Tracks: Razor, No Way Back, Best of You
05. There Is Nothing Left to Lose
Having gone through an extraordinarily difficult process as a band during the recording and promotion of their second LP The Colour and the Shape, Foo Fighters opted to record their third album in Dave Grohl’s newly purchased home in Virginia. With the exception of the likes of “Breakout” et al, the record became an extremely laid back affair, with Grohl’s melodic songwriting abilities being explored like never before. There’s scarcely a misstep on the album too, with every song from the hefty “Stacked Actors” to the gorgeous closer “M.I.A.” holding the album together beautifully.
Essential Tracks: Stacked Actors, Breakout, M.I.A.
04. Foo Fighters
The album that started it all, initially named Foo Fighters as Dave Grohl’s way of keeping the spotlight away from himself to some degree. For a debut record, all played by one man for the most part, the LP is incredibly well focused. The production quality is somewhat lo-fi, but that only adds to its appeal. From the alt-rock pop of “Big Me” to the thrashy punk of “Weenie Beenie,” the album holds up incredibly well, more than two decades on. It was one hell of a way to introduce Grohl to the world as a multi-instrumentalist, frontman and a tremendous songwriter.
Essential Tracks: This Is a Call, Weenie Beenie, I’ll Stick Around
03. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
For the follow up to In Your Honour, Foo Fighters took a similar approach to their writing and recording process. There’s the mellow laid back numbers like “Statues,” heavier screamier tracks like “The Pretender” and even songs that have both, employing the loud-quiet-loud dynamic, such as “Come Alive.” In another departure, it also has a piano driven track in the blissful closer “Home.” The album remains very underrated, despite being far, far better than the two records that had preceded it (One By One and In Your Honour). In a big way, it’s the album that In Your Honour wishes it was. It manages to be a cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable LP, and among the bands most ambitious and rewarding works to date.
Essential Tracks: The Pretender, Long Road to Ruin, Home
02. Wasting Light
While my expectations after Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace were high, I never expected Foo Fighters to actually surpass their best album in a decade with the record that was to follow, but with Wasting Light, that’s exactly what they did. Opting to work with Butch Vig, producer of Nirvana’s Nevermind record, the band also decided to record the album in Dave Grohl’s garage, rather than a regular studio. Not only that, but they decided to record on analogue tape, rather than digitally, something which is unheard of nowadays, by all accounts. The consequence of recording on analogue, was that there was very little room for error, since any mistakes couldn’t be corrected in post production all that easily. With that in mind, the band whittled down their 40 songs that they had written to 14, and practised extensively over a three week period prior to making the album, to get the tracks as polished as possible. The production and quality of the songs on the LP is absolutely impeccable, giving us some of the finest tracks cut by the band to date, as well as their best album since the 1990’s.
Essential Tracks: Rope, White Limo, Walk
01. The Colour and the Shape
While it was a tortured recording process, resulting in (or with Dave Grohl’s marriage, inspired by) two divorces and losing a band member, Foo Fighters sophomore LP remains their strongest work, 19 years on from its release. It showcases Grohl’s knack for writing the finest power pop you could hope to listen to, with songs like “Monkey Wrench”; the bands first major (and still one of their best known) anthems with “Everlong”; and across its 47 minute runtime, established itself as one of the quintessential alternative albums of the 1990’s. I was 16 when I first got around to hearing the album, and Foo Fighters became one of my favourite bands on the basis of The Colour and the Shape alone. Even today, if I had to choose one Foo’s album to bring to a desert island with me for the rest of my days, you can bet your sweet ass that this record would be it.
Essential Tracks: Monkey Wrench, Everlong, New Way Home
Spotify playlist from our Slane 2015 guide: