With three really good studio records to their credit, this decade's Foo Fighters set out to prove they can outlast, outpace and outdo Nirvana, Alanis Morissette, or anyone else with whom they have associated. It would prove to be a more daunting task than any of them thought, once drummer Taylor Hawkins found himself in rehab and Dave Grohl went out and toured as a cameo member of Queens of the Stone Age. In fact, this tortured fourth album struggled to survive numerous recording sessions, various rewrites, remixes, and then nearly got scrapped altogether last year. Thank whatever rock'n'roll God you will that it didn't because One By One turns out to be the best hard rock album of 2002.
In the past, Foo Fighters have relied mostly on blazing guitars, stacks of amps and teen spirited screams for their generational footprint. On the latest outing, by contrast, they display a broader range of musical knack, not to mention a renewed sense of urgency and even maturity in conveying a still conscious message. After all, Grohl has now been a Foo Fighter longer than he was Kurt Cobain's drummer and, with One By One, has released more original material than his prior band did. Talk about filling the proverbial big shoes!
The '02 Foos have postured some of their finest and most thoughtfully written songs to date here. "Shame on me for the rules, shame on me for the blues, another one returned that I'll never use," Grohl quips on "Tired Of You," a poignant and emotionally naked ballad that perfectly transitions the balls-out rockers like "All My Life" and "Low" to the more polished sing-a-longs like "Halo." "Halo…God only knows, right behind me everywhere I go," might sound like a Sunday hymn when written out, but to hear rock pastor Dave Grohl shriek it out above scores of guitars and thundering bass drums, you will be hard pressed to find any biblical connection. If the first single, "All My Life," doesn't survive radio or MTV, then "Times Like These" should. Hell, it's as sugary sweet as any chart-topping soundtrack song Blink 182 or Collective Soul has done.
Up until now, this highly-touted yet often underrated band has forged a predictable musical stamp with three albums and adjoining tours that feed on teenaged angst and sweaty mosh-pit adrenaline. With One By One, however, the Foo Fighters tighten the noose and narrow their focus. Songwriting and musical substance become a priority and, to their credit, the result is simply compelling. On the later "Burn Away," Grohl wails, "We'll burn away, burn away, burn away my pride." Here's hoping that a few ounces of recurring pride is all that burns away from this shooting star.
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