Reviews Foo Fighters The Colour and the Shape (Reissue)

Foo Fighters

The Colour and the Shape (Reissue)

The Colour and the Shape was the Foo Fighters second full-length release, though it was the first album in which Grohl enlisted a full band to back him in the writing and recording of the album. Grohl gathered an ensemble of musicians to surround him for what would become the band’s breakthrough album: bassist Nate Mendel of Sunny Day Real Estate, guitarist Pat Smear of The Germs (as well as spending many years on the road with Nirvana as a second guitarist), and eventually drummer Taylor Hawkins (Grohl handled the majority of the drum work following William Goldsmith’s departure). In addition, Grohl took the music to producer Gil Norton, who’d previously produced albums by The Pixies and Echo and the Bunnymen. Combined together, was there ever any doubt that this album would be anything short of fantastic?

Ten years after my first purchase and hearing The Colour and the Shape, I sit here once again listening to Grohl open the album with the softly sung melodies of “Doll” while his bandmates provide a soft, yet building aura. As the song runs it course, the Foo Fighters collectively blast into what was the album’s first single, “Monkey Wrench.” Grohl and company soar through what is now considered a hugely popular radio single. But listening more attentively one can make out less mainstream influences, including the angular riffs of post-punk past calling and then there is the coarse hardcore punk screams that Grohl delivers for the final verse of the song. “Hey, Johnny Park!” follows with big sweeping rock riffs provided by Smear, whose guitar contributions are often overlooked on this album; the man can write a roaring punk inspired rock tune one minute and a melodious ballad the next.

Grohl and his fellow bandmates first demonstrate their dexterity on “My Poor Brain.” The song alternates between soft-sung words partnered with twinkle-melody guitars and hard-hitting riffs teamed with throaty yells. While it may seem like quite a polarizing experience, it isn’t in the least. Instead the two styles play off each other perfectly. “Wind Up” and “Up in Arms” continue the rock meets pop venture through The Colour and the Shape, with the first half of the latter opening softly before kicking into a sound reminiscent of Grohl’s solo-penned self-titled affair. Which brings us to “My Hero.” Every time I hear this song, to this day, I get goosebumps. The song is easily one of my favorite songs ever. Everything from the music to the lyrics (which Grohl penned to honor everyday heroes) are perfect; I cannot fathom a better song being written than this…

Grohl and the boys are more than just an ordinary rock band though, as evident on “See You.” The song is a fun-loving Beatles-pop inspired number, not too far-fetched considering Grohl’s involvement in the Backbeat project in the mid-90’s. “Enough Space” is another high-octane punk/rock cut. The song is comprised of equal parts of atmospheric melody as well as crisp riffs. The song further exemplifies Grohl’s mixture of singing melodies and unrelenting screams. If you ever wondered where Cave In’s later sound came from, here is a good example. “February Stars” is through and through the slowest number on The Colour and the Shape. This track highlights the abilities of Mendel, while normally his basslines are hidden beneath the band’s rock demeanor, the dreamy opening sequence of the song allows for his playful basslines to become the focal point of the song. And even as the song transitions to the heavy, his vibrant basslines still propel the song.

“Everlong:” what can be said about this song that would do it justice? This is why I love this band. This is the best song of the last twenty years - hands down. Not to mention, the music video is a fantastic homage to horror b-movies. “Walking After You” is another beautifully crafted number that highlights the band’s softer side. Grohl’s melodies are soothing when partnered with the acoustic guitars and the placid drumming. And again, Mendel’s skills are best showcased in the Foo Fighters softer side. Listening to this song makes the direction the Foo Fighters have taken in recent years make so much sense. “New Way Home” concludes the album and in fitting fashion. The huge build-up culminates with a fury of guitar noise, pounding drums and Grohl screaming the same set of lyrics over and over. As the music fades out, I find myself thinking, just as I did on that day ten years ago, “This is a perfect album.”

This tenth anniversary edition is more than just a celebration of a modern classic as it includes six b-sides, released in some form or another via compilations or singles, that were recorded around the release of The Colour of the Shape. Among the bonus cuts are four covers and two originals. The Foo Fighter’s take on Killing Joke’s “Requiem,” a fitting tribute to one of the artists that influenced not only the Foo Fighters but the vast majority of the 90’s alternative crop (not to mention the controversy surrounding Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”). “Drive Me Wild” is a bit of an off-kilter cover from Vanity 6; the bassline always reminded me quite a bit of Devo. Grohl and company take on Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park,” which originally appeared on an X-Files compilation and “Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.” While the former is one of my favorite covers of all time, the latter is an interesting twist on Rafferty’s second biggest hit. “Dear Lover” is soft-rock ballad complete with acoustic guitars - something that could have appeared on the band’s second disc of In Your Honor. “The Colour and the Shape” is the final b-side and is a fine juxtaposition to “Dear Lover.” The song is filled with angular punk rock riffs supplied by Smear while Grohl screams his lungs out. Yeah… this is why I love this band: they play to two different worlds, and yet are so fitting in both.

The Colour and the Shape is an album of perfection that Grohl and the boys will likely never top. But that’s okay, because in the ten years since this album was released, the Foo Fighters have continued to craft their sound into something more unique than what we heard on this 1997 album. The infusion of more melody - perhaps bassist Mendel has rubbed off on Grohl more than we know - and the acoustic venture that was the second disc of their recent opus, In Your Honor, reveal a band that will continue to push the “alternative” tag to boundaries not seen by a mainstream rock artist since, well, ever.

10.0 / 10Michael
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