Ranked: Foo Fighters

In their twenty-plus year tenure, Foo Fighters have conquered stadiums around the globe and have become one of the biggest rock bands in the US today. Their journey to their status hasn’t been one without its bumps and altercations. Fronted by the idolised Dave Grohl, the band have gone through multiple lineup changes and reunifications. So, here’s the ranking of their studio album discography.


 

 

[8] Sonic Highways (2014)

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Essentials: Something From Nothing

Sonic Highways was birthed on a somewhat interesting and original concept. It was to coincide with an 8-part HBO documentary of the same name that focused on different parts of the United States with origins to particular sub-genres. The Foos would then record a track that possessed some of the atmosphere of the respective style, often with guest appearances.

Consequently, the television documentary was well-received and praised for its good intentions, yet collectively as a music record, became the Foos’ worst album yet. It was just too safe. The opening track ‘Something From Nothing’ was the only redeemable cut to be found, with its darkly melodic sensibilities and ‘Holy Diver’-inspired main refrain. Yet the rest of the album was haplessly generic (even for Foo’s standards) and baron of any memorability.


 

 

[7] In Your Honor (2005)

Essentials: Best of You – Another Round – Virginia Moon

Grohl implied that the band’s fifth studio record was an attempt to diversify and break new ground after putting out rock albums for the previous ten years. In Your Honor, a double album with an eighty-three-minute runtime featured staple heavy Foos on disc one, whilst disc two was mostly acoustic, with drummer Taylor Hawkins taking up writing and lead vocal duties for a single track.

The issue with putting out double albums, is the sheer volume of material, and status of being filler. In Your Honor contains a lot of filler, most notably on the back end of the first CD (the rockier stuff). However, it did birth ‘Best of You’, undoubtedly one of the Foos’ best cuts and a few of the acoustic tracks, notably ‘Another Round’ and the jazzy ‘Virginia Moon’ made the second CD a bit more redeemable.


 

 

[6] There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)

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Essentials: Stacked Actors – Breakout – Learn to Fly

What mars the quality of Foo’s third studio record is the sentiment that all its best offerings occur within the first half of the tracklisting. Yes, the first five tracks are the best the album has to offer (with the exception of closing cut ‘M.I.A.’). What this creates is a significant gap in quality, as some of the band’s best cuts, namely ‘Stacked Actors’ and ‘Learn to Fly’ take place within the first 10 minutes of the record’s runtime. To follow ‘The Colour and the Shape’ with this record was certainly a low blow.


 

 

[5] Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)

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Essentials: The Pretender – Let It Die – Erase/Replace – Come Alive – Stranger Things Have Happened

Following their rock/acoustic double album In Your Honor, Grohl questioned why the two styles of music needed to be separated at all, and not appearing on the same disc. Thus, the band’s sixth record intended to incorporate both these styles into a single tracklisting. ESPG works well for the most part, and continued to demonstrate how Grohl could still write gargantuan hits in the form of The Pretender. The deeper cuts on the record were also mostly interesting, including highlights Let It Die, Come Alive & ballad Stranger Things Have Happened. Grohl also committed to a couple of piano ballad style songs, yet they did not hold up to the band’s established credibility to write catchy arena rock cuts.


 

 

[4] Wasting Light (2011)

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Essentials: Rope – Dear Rosemary – White Limo – I Should Have Known

The Foos recruited Pat Smear back into the lineup for their seventh record, his first outing with the Foos since 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. Wasting Light was a back-to-basics record, primarily focusing on straightforward rock cuts that utilised every band member’s’ strengths. The result was a refreshing yet ever-so similar formula where each tracked flowed nicely into one another.

A few guest appearances are present in the form of Bob Mould providing vocals for ‘Dear Rosemary’, as well as Nirvana-bassist Krist Novoselic chipping in for Cobain-centric cut ‘I Should Have Known’. A sure-fire highlight, Grohl’s lyrics are wholly heartfelt as he seemingly questions the reasons for Cobain’s death. Another tie to Nirvana, Butch Vig handles production and does a stellar job in keeping the band sounding fresh and relevant. The record is a fun listen, and more importantly sounds great, with no harsh dips in material quality, as other Foos records for sure experience.


 

 

[3] One by One (2002)

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Essentials: All My Life – Low – Times Like These – Come Back

The recording and production surrounding Foo’s fourth studio record was marred with widespread problems. The initial recording sessions over a three-month period became known as the ‘Million Dollar Demo’. It had proved costly to record compositions in which the band weren’t happy with, and eventually discarded. A lack of band enthusiasm and synergy, as well as Grohl away on drumming duty with Queens of the Stone Age resulted in the Foos taking a break from the album’s production. Regrouping over a twelve-day period, the band recorded the ten tracks which became the final product.

One By One deserves its spot in the higher echelon of Foo Fighters material due to its focus and possession of high-quality rock tracks. All My Life became the band’s biggest hit, a staple at every single live show since its birth. However the album’s quality did not peak with its lead single. Cuts such as Low took influence from heavier acts (perhaps Grohl’s time with QOTSA rubbed off) and Hawkins’ drumming on this cut was dynamic and unabashedly energetic. In contrast, the groggy closer Come Back was a near eight-minute fuzzed-out crooner that rounded off a strong record.


 

 

[2] Foo Fighters (1995)

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Essentials: This Is a Call – Good Grief – Oh, George – For All the Cows – X-Static – Exhausted

It may come as a surprise that this album is placed so high on this list, given all the success the band found in subsequent records. Yet there’s a special and unique sensibility to the band’s debut, which was effectively a bunch of demos recorded by Grohl following Nirvana’s disbandment. The result was a sound that was different to Nirvana, and the stepping stones for what the Foos grew into are highly apparent.

The self-titled record contains absolutely no filler. Every cut has a distinct tone and memorability. Grohl writes all lyrics, records all instrumentation (except a guitar part on X-Static) and performs all vocals. It’s essentially his first solo record, and what makes it so great is that it was intended to be a joke. The lyrics are largely nonsensical yet Grohl’s ability to write varied compositions that weren’t technically Nirvana-style grunge but something more accessible and mainstream.


 

 

[1] The Colour and the Shape (1997)

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Essentials: Monkey Wrench – Hey, Johnny Park! – My Hero – Everlong

Largely considered their best work, it also earns top spot here. Effectively it was another solo record by Grohl as he decided to re-record drum parts initially performed by Hawkins that he wasn’t happy with. Producer Gil Norton is very much responsible for making the band’s sound fuller and adaptive to mainstream rock at the time. TCATS was the birthplace of some of the band’s biggest cuts, such as Monkey Wrench, My Hero and Everlong, which became a staple closer for their live sets.

The Colour and the Shape works so well because of its pacing and flow. The tracklisting is organised so heavier cuts are partnered with slower tracks to keep the listener engaged. Of course, some tracks are of a better quality than others but the way the album plays out is what makes it the band’s strongest work to date.

 

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