"When someone comes up to you and asks which Led Zeppelin album they should buy, you should say 'Physical Graffiti'. And in 20 years, when your kid comes up to you and asks which Foo Fighters album he or she should buy, I want you to say 'In Your Honor'." - Dave Grohl, 2005
Strong words, Mr. Grohl. Particularly since there probably hasn't been a 2 disc album since Physical Graffiti that wouldn't have been better served truncated to a single CD.
Yes, In Your Honor is a double album, divided into a "rock CD" and an "acoustic CD". Some would call any such album 'pretentious', or at the very least 'ambitious', or 'risky', considering the overall attention-deficient music consumer of today. But there's another word that can be used to describe the group's fifth album. Good. Very good, in fact. With In Your Honor, the Foo Fighters have created the album they were always capable of making, but previously never quite made.
Though a music veteran at the start of the group's 10 year career, Grohl has seemingly gone through all the trials and tribulations normally reserved for young up-and-comers. Numerous line-up changes finally culminated in the current roster of Taylor Hawkins on drums, Chris Schifflet on guitar and Foo mainstay (and criminally underrated) Nate Mendel.
Most recently, there was the well-publicized creative dry spell that led to 2001's One by One recording sessions to be scrapped entirely. The resulting frustration and tension between members left the entire future of the band in limbo while Grohl returned to the drums with his ol' buddies Queens of the Stone Age. After returning to the studio, One By One is released, and while an improvement over the underwhelming There is Nothing Left To Lose, it still failed to reach the bar set by the group's sophomore effort, The Colour and the Shape. With that album, in 1997, the bar was set. With In Your Honor, the bar has been raised once again - taking the group in a direction their previous efforts only hinted at.
"Can you hear me? Hear me screaming?" Asks Grohl on the opener of the "rock" CD, the title track, a monster of an arena rock number that will surely be one of the highlights of the live show. The entire first disc is a non-stop barrage of prick-kicking rock that's sure to please even the most jaded listener still complaining they haven't had a decent song since "Monkeywrench". Indeed, songs such as "Free Me", "DOA" and "The Last Song" are bound to be fan favorites for years to come. The one thing the Foo Fighters have always been good at, is knowing how to end an album, and disc one is no exception. With its insanely catchy riffs, "End Over End" will have you humming the tune for days.
We already knew the Foo Fighters could rock. We also knew that they could adapt those rock songs into beautifully arranged acoustic numbers. But an entire CD of acoustic songs? Sure they could do it. Anyone can do it. But can it be done without boring the hell out of us? The answer is yes. Yes it can.
Regardless of how In Your Honor translates in sales figures, disc two proves this is an album the band should be very proud of. A softly understated collection of songs that can be either unobtrusive background music or a richly rewarding headphone listen. From the opening strains of "Still" to the last note of the haunting "Razor", is an entire disc of some of the best material in the group's catalog, finally giving Grohl the opportunity to showcase his singing abilities.
Helping him along is a number of guest musicians. Longtime friend and member of the Foo/Queens mutual admiration society, Josh Homme, supplies guitar on the disc closer, "Razor". Somewhat more unexpected is the appearance of soft jazz songstress Norah Jones, who performs a duet with Grohl on "Virginia Moon", a sweet bossanova tune that brings to mind another duet of Grohl's with Louise Post from his soundtrack to the little seen film Touch.
On an album full of pleasant surprises, including Taylor Hawkins' lead vocal duties for "Cold Day In The Sun", the biggest has to be the inclusion of "Friend of a Friend", a track that first appeared on the legendary Pocketwatch Demos that predates the Foo Fighters and was in was in fact, written when Grohl had just been hired as the drummer for Nirvana and moved in with the group's singer, a Kurt something-or-other.
No one will ever accuse the Foo Fighters of re-inventing the wheel. What they've always given us is undiluted, unpretentious, radio-friendly mainstream rock that somehow manages to sound different from any other group surrounding it on the airwaves. While this may get them fans, it won't always get them respect. With In Your Honor, their respect is not only due, it's earned.
8.0 / 10
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