Review Summary: Disappointing & overlong, the Foo Fighters diminish in practically every area that they were previously strong in. How this won the Grammy for Best Rock Album is bewildering. Maybe it was the 2 standout tracks.
I used to like awards ceremonies and still do pass them the occasional glance, but with pretty much every single award for the arts nowadays, I have stopped taking the eventual winners too seriously. This is because somewhere along the way, a recipient has completely confounded logic as far as I am concerned. With the Academy Awards, it was when Tom Hanks’ performance in ‘Philadelphia’ ousted Daniel Day Lewis’ in ‘In The Name of the Father’. With the Grammy awards, it was when the Foo Fighters’ ‘One By One’ won ‘Best Rock Album’ in 2004. Don’t ask me which album should have triumphed that year, but it should not have been this!
Disappointment always exists in life, whether it is due to an individual’s high expectations for something, the eventual occurrence or a combination of both. As a decent fan of the Foo Fighters, it is an understatement to suggest that I was disappointed with this fourth release of theirs. And I don’t believe that my expectations were too high at all. It is simply a very average album in all senses of the word, with very few highlight tracks. In fact, two songs stand out head and shoulders above the rest.
Of course, it isn’t at all surprising that the two highlights were indeed the first two singles, leading to this album still selling very well. Beginning the LP on such an ominous and menacing note, Dave Grohl’s practically spoken vocals bring 1st single ‘All My Life’ alive almost instantaneously. All the while, a repetitive guitar riff lurks in the background effectively, before the remainder of the song rocks hard. There is something deeper here though and it is an all-around hookiness to the track that ultimately results in it being such a memorable song that it is not too far behind the bands very best.
The other standout on the album is track 4 ‘Times Like These’, which is reminiscent of ‘Learn To Fly’ from the Foo Fighters previous release. Charming, melodic and very likeable, this is a catchy track that deserves high praise. The 2 songs that are sandwiched between these 2 singles are not too bad and were probably deservedly released as the other 2 singles from this album, even if they are a fair way behind the aforementioned highlights. That probably says as much for the depth of this album as anything.
Second track ‘Low’ is not too unlike ‘All My Life’ with its opening dark undertones that is very promising. But there is no second gear here to provide a satisfactory payoff. Meanwhile, ‘Have It All’ is a solid mid-tempo track that has good melody throughout and an engaging guitar hook. It just lacks that something special to make it in any way memorable.
Stacking the 4 singles as the first 4 tracks of the album immediately means ‘One By One’ is front loaded. And a harsh critic would almost suggest that there is literally nothing more worth hearing for the remaining 7 tracks! ‘Disenchanted Lullaby’ comes in at track 5 and fairly effectively uses the band’s well-known quiet/loud formula, but is nothing outstanding enough to lift it any level above a decent album track. And that last comment pretty much describes the rest of the album really. There is nothing too awful (although ‘Burn Away’ is pretty close), but it is all so disappointing and average.
The only other tracks that are possibly noteworthy are ‘Tired of You’ and closer ‘Come Back’. But even these two songs that have their moments highlight another glaring weakness that plagues this album; Over-length. The shortest of the last seven tracks is 4:30, with four of those being 5 minutes or longer. In fact, the shortest song on the album full stop is the opener at 4:23. While the shorter tracks of the band’s previous albums were only occasionally the highlights (For Example; ‘Big Me), many of them played their part in the bigger picture of assisting to make a more successfully cohesive album as a whole.
To sum it all up, ‘One By One’ is a disappointing and overlong fourth album from the Foo Fighters that has seen the band diminish in practically every area that they were previously strong in. The mix of rockers and ballads are uncomfortable, the song-writing has reduced in quality, the (over-)production is questionable and there are simply not enough memorable tracks when all is said and done. In a word; Disappointing.
Recommended Tracks: All My Life & Times Like These