Review Summary: The rock sound of prior albums has been refined down here, but this is still a very good album that is consistent and includes sufficient highlights, even if it is not up to its sensational predecessor.
For a number of reasons, it is rather difficult not to compare the Foo Fighter’s third album ‘There is Nothing Left to Lose’ with its fantastic predecessor ‘The Colour and The Shape’. The change of approach from the band’s self-titled debut to the excellent second release was huge and successful. Would the same occur on both fronts this time around? Well, if you were to compare the opening 3 tracks, then you may very well think that the virtually impossible could actually occur.
Logically ordered from the rockiest to the most melodic, things kick off with the angry and menacing (both vocally and musically) 2nd single ‘Stacked Actors’. It is a song that successfully utilizes some cool guitar effects as well as the quiet/loud formula that the band has become known for. 4th single ‘Breakout’ follows and it is a really satisfying mix of melody and rock that ends up a genuinely memorable tune.
But it is with track 3, ‘Learn To Fly’ where the Foo Fighters really hit most targets that they are aiming to achieve with this album. There is no doubt that the rock sound has been scaled down by the band, but it is done subtly enough and not to such an extent that it renders the album less effective. Deserving of being released as the 1st single, ‘Learn To Fly’ is clearly more radio-friendly than usual, but while that is usually a negative stigma for most rock fans, when it is performed this charmingly, I have no hesitation to state that it is definitely a positive. This song also includes some neat drum-work to top it all off nicely.
Elsewhere, the strongest tracks to come are basically subtle variations on the same themes. Track 5 ‘Generator’ (the 3rd single) is similar to ‘Breakout’ to some extent, but stands out by using very good voice-box (vocoder) throughout the song. Meanwhile, track 8 ‘Next Year’ is a relaxing piece which contains a sweet melody not too unlike ‘Learn To Fly’ and with similarly effective lyrics. Although, I must say that the false ending to the track is ultimately counter-productive, if not anything to bring the song down.
An argument can actually be made that this is the most consistent Foo Fighters album of all. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t really debate that as there isn’t any track that I would call awful. If anything, the closest to filler is track 9 ‘Headwires’, which musically begins like a mediocre mid 80’s radio-rock effort and then simply lacks the necessary grunt to salvage it later on.
But “more consistent” and “better” are definitely two different things and there is no way I can rate this album better than ‘The Colour and The Shape’. This is mainly due to a number of tracks simply being good and solid, yet being rather straight-forward and lacking that certain memorable factor which so helped its predecessor. Cuts like ‘Gimme Stitches’, ‘Live-In Skin’ and closer ‘M.I.A’ all fall into this category and are rather reliant on their choruses for the most part.
And while slower and softer efforts like the smooth almost 6 minute ‘Aurora’ and the melodic acoustic piece ‘Ain’t It The Life’ stand above the pack slightly, they never reach the heights of similar songs from the band’s past releases. Actually, for those lucky enough to own the version of the album that contains the bonus track ‘Fraternity’, they will know that is a rather welcome addition to the LP just for that extra bit of pace and momentum.
Looking back on this review, I have definitely fallen into the trap of (unfairly) comparing this album to its sensational predecessor and the end result comes off a lot more negative than it should. Because in reality, this is one fine album that deserves to be in contention for the Foo Fighters 2nd best release, if only for its consistency. The refinement of the band’s sound is done smoothly enough here to practically not be an issue, while the highlight tracks deserve their place amongst the Fooeys best. Overall, it is just a very good solid effort that is definitely worth a listen.
Recommended Tracks: Learn To Fly, Breakout, Generator & Next Year.