Review Summary: A style-splitting double album of rock & acoustic tracks which enables the Foo Fighters to return to form despite the latter acoustic disc probably extending the band a little too much.
Sometimes you need a kick in the backside to rejuvenate yourself and this was obviously what the Foo Fighters required after their disappointing 4th album ‘One By One’, which saw them regress as a band in almost every way, shape & form. In order to practically revive the success of the band, the Foo Fighters decided to extend their 5th release ‘In Your Honor’ into 2 discs and split the styles of music contained on them as far as they possibly could. On the first disc, they took their rock music to a more aggressive level, while the 2nd disc was performed practically all acoustically.
Given this breathing space, Disc-1 is kicked off with a specialist opener. That is, the title track is not anything special in isolation, but builds up in an involving manner to make for a very effective beginning to any sort of album (as well as a live concert). Following it is 4th single ‘No Way Back’, which is an often forgotten track in amongst the huge Foo Fighters back catalogue that I would almost go as far as saying is their most under-rated song. Catchy throughout and fairly memorable, it is a very good mixture of rock and melody. Track 4 ‘D.O.A’ is not too dissimilar to it either and deserved to be released as the 2nd single from the album.
Sandwiched in between those 2 tracks though is quite possibly the Foo Fighters best song of all… ‘Best Of You’. Beginning with just vocals and strumming background guitar, it intensely builds up in an involving manner as layers of instrumentation are gradually added. Best of all though is Dave Grohl’s tremendous vocals that are ably backed up by impressive lyrics. Grohl delivers just the right combination of emotion, frustration and empathy into his performance to succeed in reaching every listener that has been in a situation where another person has affected them mentally/psychologically.
Elsewhere on the first disc, the quality doesn’t manage to equal the lofty levels of the opening 4 songs, but it does remain rather consistent as variation is effectively interspersed throughout the album sufficiently. Both ‘The Last Song’ and closer ‘End Over End’ are above average and include repetitively catchy choruses, while 3rd single ‘Resolve’ slows the pace down a little leading to a competently performed mainstream rock track.
There are a few average album tracks contained upon the first disc as well, but nothing is at all awful. Track 5 ‘Hell’ probably sounded better in theory than in reality, as it is a drum-driven 2 minute interlude of sorts that doesn’t quite come together. ‘Free Me’ is overlong and fairly unmemorable apart from some effective guitar-work and screaming during the middle section. While penultimate track ‘The Deepest Blues Are Black’ is a bluesy song which is solid lyrically and has a decent chorus, but is probably unnecessary considering the second disc that is to come.
As for Disc-2, any doubts as to the Foo Fighters intentions to compromise it are instantaneously dismissed with the soothingly calm and effectively atmospheric 5 minute opener ‘Still’. It is nice and satisfactory, but a little unmemorable which is what plagues most of the disc, as can be seen by follow-up ‘What If I Do?’ which is impressive lyrically, but overlong at 5 minutes in length.
The best individual song on the acoustic disc is track 3 ‘Miracle’. Deservedly released as the 5th single from the album, this is a successfully hooky tune which is ably assisted by strings and a cameo by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones on piano. The song is also helped by the fact it is kept under 4 minutes in duration. Unfortunately, any momentum gained by ‘Miracle’ is halted by the next 5 tracks which all could be classified as average and rather boring. That might be a little harsh on the decent instrumentation of ‘Over and Out’ as well as the duet with Norah Jones on ‘Virginia Moon’, but as a group of 5 songs these do not sit well together at all.
While things are not exactly saved by the final 2 tracks of the acoustic disc, they are thankfully a nice way to end the album as a whole. ‘Cold Day in the Sun’ is a mini-revelation as drummer Taylor Hawkins takes on the vocal duties and performs surprisingly well. Hooky and melodic, this song is most importantly upbeat, adding some life to the disc. Closer ‘Razor’ isn’t too bad either with its strength being the finger-plucking guitar assist by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age.
Double Albums are always tough to rate as it is often difficult to consider them as one complete package as compared to an album with a bunch of bonus tracks to add value for money. Would this album have rated higher if it was say 14 tracks with 4 of the best acoustic songs added to the 1st disc? I would answer “yes’ as the band extended themselves a little too far on the latter disc. However, those who liked the acoustic tracks better than I did could understandably disagree.
The point to always keep in mind with this album is that it is what may have been required to get the Foo Fighters back on track. To that end, it has achieved its objective well. More emphasis was placed on taking up the rock aspect of disc-1, while the band honed their skills for bluesy folksy, yet still accessible, ballads on the latter disc. Furthermore, both sides of the spectrum show a return to form lyrically and vocally more often than not. Throw in some killer highlight tracks and ‘In Your Honor’ is simply a solid and very good album.
Recommended Tracks: Best Of You, No Way Back, DOA & Miracle.