Two discs – one loud, one not so loud. As the blurb reads. In truth this is quite a premise… one full-on rock, one acoustic (with special guests). 21 songs for £12! My bargain chip is tingling…
Now before we start, remember I’m a Foo fan. So after a couple of listens all the way through you’ll be surprised when I tell you that this isn’t them at their best – IMHO.
I listened to the Acoustic CD before tackling the Rock CD so keen was I to get it out the box and onto my player. This may have been a mistake. Because what hits you about the Acoustic CD is the sheer strangeness of it all. Once you get over that you realise that what you’re listening to is the Foos sliced from head to toe, split asunder, and there’s plenty of spillage.
Tracks 1-7 come fast and are simply couplets of chords which as background music sound monotonous when stuck together. The best of these are Still – featuring a haunting background throb undercut by half-spoken vocal, Over & Out – with it’s Clapton-esque guitar verse and crisp and sweetly sung vocal harmony, and On The Mend – a sweeping balletic wash of keyboard with double-bass and unusual chord arrangements, with jarring (in a good way) sevenths, which despite being almost spoiled by an unforgivable fade-out is still the CD’s shining glory.
Then we come to Virginia Moon featuring piano and vocals by Norah Jones (in a duet with Grohl). The whole track has a bossanova rhythm and it caught me so unawares I laughed out loud. It’s on another planet to what we know the Foos to be. Next up, Cold Day In The Sun starring the hobo-vocals of drummer Taylor Hawkins. Funnily enough its rock country vibe is kind of what I expected a lot of the disc to sound like. Last track here is Razor featuring what I swear is a slack guitar (played by Josh Homme of QOTSA) over Grohl’s voice laid bare.
One other track that demands extra attention is the sharp acoustic guitar of "Friend Of A Friend". It's the first song Dave ever wrote, in 1991, and is reminiscent of Nirvana’s "Polly". It features the strangely beautiful lines "It was his friend’s guitar that he played / When he plays no-one speaks". I hate myself for even mentioning this – but I had visions of Kurt as the words came out.
All in all, it’s quite a departure for the FF boys and I was amazed at how through all ten tracks they never pulled one out of the bag that managed to surpass the incredible "Doll" from The Colour And The Shape album.
Onto the Rock CD and here we find the Foo Fighters producing more of what we know and love them for. It plays almost like a "Best Of" with a lot of strangely familiar sounding tracks. Elements of all first four albums here, particularly There Is Nothing Left To Lose – check out The Last Song and tell me that’s not "Breakout".
We start out with some tub-thumping and screamo vocals on In Your Honour (that’s honour with a "u" …gasp…) and move quickly onto the 80’s soft rock of No Way Back and straight into Best Of You – a track with an incredible heartfelt verse and such a disappointingly mind-numbing chorus. And then we find DOA – a track that is so much the Foo Fighters of old as to define them. Solid, punchy, roaring rock.
The rest of the disc didn’t raise so much as an eyebrow. It’s all there. There’s no track that stands out and screams "love me" as much as there’s no track that you can turn your nose up in disgust at. If you want those kind of tracks then stick in the Acoustic Disc again – I’ll certainly be playing that one a whole lot more.
It’s almost as if the boys wrote the Rock Disc, got bored, and then thought "let’s try something else". It’s genius, it’s inspired, it’s missing something, and yet it’s certainly worth an ASDA-bottom slap. It’s certainly unexpected. It’s left me feeling slightly hollow. I need to go and listen to this album again – and then again – and then some more.