Though I can't speak for my colleagues, I find it isn't unusual for an album to be given a great review or a poor review, only to find that a few months or a year down the road, my thoughts have changed about said album, and I find myself wishing I had reviewed it differently. So when I gave the Foo Fighters' last studio release, the two disc In Your Honor a solid 8.0 last year, even then the score was skewed as the acoustic disc would have in fact scored much higher than the plugged-in disc, had they been separate releases. And looking back on it now, I wish I had given it a higher score to reflect just how strong I found the acoustic portion to be. They took what started with an overwhelming response to an acoustic version of the group's "Everlong" on The Howard Stern Show and parlayed it into what was easily the band's best work since their sophomore effort The Colour and the Shape.
Which brings us all full-circle to the first live CD release from the Foos and goddamn, it's a doozy. Overall, live albums have absolutely nothing new or exceptional to add to either the listener's or the artist's catalogue other than (more often than not) to fill the band's contractual obligation to the label. This is not the case with Skin and Bones. Taken from their far-too-brief acoustic tour, this collection of fifteen tracks is a phenomenal snapshot of a band that's been given a new lease on life.
While the band has always made very capable albums, they appeared to reach a zenith with 2002's One by One, which had few highlights and a rock-by-numbers mindset evident both in the studio and out on the road. So with the release of In Your Honor, the band took quite a risk with the second disc of what turned out to be a group of songs that transcended the mire of pedestrian rock that they seemed doomed to repeat.
Now, don't get me wrong. Bad Foo Fighters is still a whole assload better than most music you'll find on modern rock radio, but innovative has never been a word commonly used in their description. Acoustic tours are nothing new either, but any kind of spin on the typical live album is always a welcome change.
Spanning the group's over ten-year career, Skin and Bones beautifully captures the intimacy of what this tour had been all about. Quiet introspection from Mr. Dave Grohl, the dude who routinely chews gum each show so he doesn't blow out his larynx from screaming sounds like a novelty that would wear off in the first few minutes. But take a listen to these versions of "February Stars," "Times Like These," and "Over and Out" and tell me there isn't a whole lot more to Grohl and the band as a whole than meets the eye.
For the tour, Grohl smartly assembled a whole mess of additional musicians - including former guitarist and once-again member of the legendary Germs, Pat Smear - to flesh out the songs we know so well like the previously mentioned "Everlong," or the more obscure, like the surprising and very welcome inclusion of "Marigold," a song which first appeared as a Nirvana B-Side and remains the only Nirvana song to feature Grohl in the lead vocal position and Kurt Cobain on backing vocals.
The Foo Fighters started as a band full of surprises that defied quite a few expectations to have a long, though not-so-varied career. The release of Skin and Bones (and companion DVD, also out this month with five extra tracks, no less) should hopefully prove that even a band trapped in their safe little rut can still have the balls to try something different and be just as, if not more successful as they ever were.
8.7 / 10
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