Review Summary: Foo Fighters hit hard with a fantastic and varied sophomore album that more than makes use of the added members to the line-up following the one-man debut album.
It is an unfortunate fact in life that absolutely nothing is perfect, and music is merely another factor of everyday life in which so many albums merely pass their listener's ears and are labelled as merely being "alright". So many albums do very little to a high enough standard that they achieve memorability and of those that do manage to make an impression, half will only receive half an hour of fame before being cast onto a CD shelf somewhere not to be listened to for a few months. It is a very rare case for an album to leap out from its listener's audio system of choice and captivate them from the opening notes to a thrilling climax. These albums must be close to perfect in every regard and feel flawlessly balanced to erase any notion of being average or just a cut above the rest. Foo Fighters are one of the few bands that are almost guaranteed to achieve this with absolutely everyone.
It would be a sad case for an individual to have not heard of and at least sampled this band in their life and this person must surely be submerged sixty feet beneath the ocean to avoid their music. Foo Fighters emerged in the aftermath of Nirvana's dissolution. They were to be a one man band initially, and that one man was none other than Dave Grohl. He single-handedly wrote and recorded all twelve tracks for the band's debut, aside from a brief guitar cameo on one track from Greg Dulli. The album skyrocketed the band to even more fame than they already had (given who was fronting) and went on to be an immensely successful release, eventually being certified platinum in two countries. From here on out, Dave sought to expand his horizons and therefore shifted to merely being guitarist, vocalist and drummer. Pat Smear came in to take on rhythm guitar duties, whilst William Goldsmith was credited as drummer on a couple of the tracks and former Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel was recruited to complete the line-up. The revitalized Foo Fighters line-up then proceeded to record a follow-up to the debut, and it was released in 1997, entitled The Colour And The Shape.
And what an album it was...
This is an album where absolutely nothing could be pointed at as an obvious flaw throughout. The manic, unhinged vocals of Dave Grohl are absolutely top-notch here, from the mellow crooning on February Stars to the demented, throat-ripping screams on Enough Space and who could forget the half-shouted lines in My Hero. To put it gently, this is among the finest vocal performances one will hear, carrying enough of a sleazy rock feel whilst still being dynamic enough to suit any mood of song that is found here. Dave's voice is often overlooked in lists of the finest vocalists ever, but he sure states his case well on the Colour And The Shape. Moments such as the screaming in Wind Up and the entire performance on the track that follows, Up In Arms, will drop the jaw of even the most seasoned veterans of the music industry who feel they have nothing left to hear. Grohl contributes superbly to the heartache-flooded atmosphere and mood that essentially makes this album what it is. He suits the softer moments equally as well as the louder portions of this album and it would be a very sad experience to hear this album without mentioning the magnificent presence behind the microphone.
Every track here is infested with some manner of mood, be it the dark and depressing feel the vocals give My Hero when combined with the murky guitar work or else the tear-jerking sound that February Stars has. Doll kicks this album off and does not waste any time in breaking out the atmosphere, with the sound of a tape recorder playing some vocal snippets with the line "I'll never be so scared" standing out, before the band comes storming out of the gates with a mellow opening. The best thing about the atmosphere here is that every track continues on from where the last one left off whilst being completely different in style, as Monkey Wrench shows by delivering a swift, heavy kick to the teeth after the slower first track. This is one of the faster, more furious cuts on the album and to say it doesn't hit hard after the first track would be a straight faced lie. Dave sounds completely insane by this point, spitting out the lines "Don't wanna be your monkey wrench" with all the bile, venom and sleaze that could be expected from this band. The riffs here are as nice as can be found in hard-rock music and the drumming is extremely strong, particularly during the screamed bridge.
As if the vocals and instrumentals did not contribute enough to the overbearing sense of atmosphere that one receives from spinning this disk, the lyrical content here is absolutely spectacular. These tracks are not deep, overly thought out songs with double-meanings and social commentary scattered around, but mainly deal with heartbreaks in many different forms. Monkey Wrench and Up In Arms deal with relationships and love from two completely different viewpoints, whilst fans often speculate that My Hero is a tribute to Grohl's fallen comrade Kurt Cobain, which would be a reasonable guess. Enough Space is a rather peculiar one that often gets down-talked lyrically by people who claim that it has no meaning at all, but it appears to refer to wishing to be closer to someone but not finding time in your life. Every lyrical snippet here is absolutely necessary and contributes a whole lot to the emotions that will course through your system whilst listening. February Stars in particular is a track that is almost certainly going to tug on your heartstrings, and with good reason.
Another factor of the success of The Colour And The Shape is how well every instrument slots together in the mix. For instance, whilst Dave Grohl may not be the most talented drummer, the introduction to My Poor Brain could not have been better performed and written, and it feels very powerful. This is a release with a variety of different styles to it, but is always firmly routed in the good old fashioned rock genre, and it is a joy to behold and embrace so many different talents within the band. Everlong and My Hero are two exceedingly catchy numbers that were destined to be hits among both the fans and the critics, whilst February Stars drips with every ounce of emotion you could possibly wish for. Enough Space is another superb track, opening with a great bass line and a heavy riff before the song calms down for the verse and then, out of the blue, Dave begins shrieking his lungs out. Monkey Wrench is another track that holds up the harder edge of the album, whilst Wind Up and Up In Arms both make great use of their sub-three minute running length. Not a second of The Colour And The Shape is wasted ever.
The Colour And The Shape is a magnificent accomplishment that, whilst not actually revolutionizing rock music as we know it, can more than hold its own among the mass amount of similar albums out there and actually surpasses almost all of them. This is one album that will remain with you long after hearing it for the first time, with many classic songs that have stood the test of time.