Foo Fighters: In Your Honor, Dave Grohl (guitar/vocal), Nate Mendel (bass), Taylor Hawkins (drums), Chris Shiflett (guitar)
"Mine is yours and yours is mine | There is no divide In Your Honor | I would die tonight"
Foo Fighters fifth and definitive album opens with a statement of purpose universal in its passion. Dave Grohl could be singing to his wife, bandmates Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins and Chris Shiflett, or to any and every fan listening to the song. In truth, the song and the double album -- one heavy as fuck, the other subtly laid back -- are dedicated to all of the above: the friends, family and fans that have made the decade-long Foo Fighters odyssey possible.
"We've been a band for 10 years now," says Grohl, channeling the band's quandary at the outset of the In Your Honor sessions. "So what do we do? Do we make another album? Rush into making another record? So I came up with this idea. I thought since I'd just been all around the world for a year and a half screaming my ass off, I'd make a solo acoustic record but disguise it as movie score. We've always had acoustic songs. Most of our rock songs were written on acoustic guitar, songs like 'Times Like These,' 'Everlong' I had this little studio up at my house and started recording all this music, some of it songs, some of it like a score, it was really beautiful, really coming out well then I listened to it and I was like 'Wait a second: It sounds like the Foo Fighters. It sounds like the band.'
"Everyone in the band has so much to offer," Grohl says. "But we'd sort of remained in this one 'thing' for so long that I felt it was time to break out, to branch out, that maybe we should make the acoustic record_ but then I started thinking about how I didn't want to show up to the Reading Festival with a harpsichord, or whatever. This band just has to make some rock music so I thought, OK, why don't we do this? Why don't we make a DOUBLE album?"
And so it was that the In Your Honor double disc opus was conceived. The band and producer Nick Raskulinecz would take the Foo Fighters' unique and precarious balance of balls-out aggression and lady-killing melodic tenderness and split the difference. The chemistry that had made it possible for "All My Life," "Everlong" and "Times Like These" to impact listeners equally in their acoustic and electric incarnations would be divided and pushed to separate extremes of hard and soft, distilled into their purest forms.
"By splitting the difference," Grohl continues, "You eliminate the middle ground. We can make the acoustic record far more delicate and beautiful and atmospheric than anything we've ever done and we can make the rock record far more brutal and aggressive and powerful than anything from our past.' In order to make it work, I really thought "take out that middle ground, make these two records, put them together and you've accomplished something." I've always sort of believed we were capable of doing both - just not as well as this has turned out."
Indeed, Foo Fighters being at the peak of their creative powers 10 years in - let alone still together at all--often seemed a sketchy possibility. From a genesis in the form of a 1995 self-titled platinum debut originally recorded as a demo tape by Grohl (who played all instruments, save for a lone guitar track contributed by erstwhile Afghan Whig/Twilight Singer Greg Dulli), the Foo Fighters' career has been largely, as bassist Nate Mendel puts it, "accidental."
Accidental or worse: The shattered relationships that inspired, permeated and continued through the recording of and touring behind 1997's The Colour and the Shape would surely have left a lesser band in tatters. Foo Fighters, however, persevered first through the mid-session departure of drummer William Goldsmith, who would be replaced by Taylor Hawkins months before Pat Smear would depart -- all of this as The Colour and the Shape yielded one FF classic after another: "Monkey Wrench," "Everlong," "My Hero," "Walking After You" -- and rocketed beyond the sales of Foo Fighters.
The resultant, strengthened Grohl/Mendel/Hawkins nucleus decamped to Grohl's now derelict home studio in Alexandria VA to create 1999's There Is Nothing Left To Lose. Heralded by the infectious "Learn To Fly," the album was in large part their answer record, especially in retrospect, to the testosterone-drenched rap-metal onslaught mounting in its year of release. Mellifluous down-tempo numbers rolled into one another ("Next Year," "Aurora") while the record's few raucous numbers ("Breakout," "Stacked Actors") would become live staples. The band enlisted guitarist Chris Shiflett and embarked on yet another global conquest in support of the album, concluding with two Grammy victories: Best Rock Album and Short Form Music Video ("Learn To Fly").
One By One followed in 2002 and a difficult birth it was. The result of two passes at recording, it once again tested the mettle of the band and its personal bonds -- resulting in Grohl's leave-of-absence to gain much needed perspective: recording and touring for a spell as drummer for Queens Of the Stone Age. Regrouping, regenerating and putting the record to bed, Foo Fighters released One By One to rave reviews and followed with the band's biggest world tour to date-including two sold out nights at London's Wembley Arena and a headlining stand at the Reading Festival. By 2004, One By One had become the fourth FF record to surpass the platinum mark, putting two more Grammies on the band's mantle: Best Hard Rock Performance for the "All My Life" single and a second consecutive Best Rock Album statuette, as the band wound down with a show-stopping Grammy performance of "Times Like These" augmented by legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea.
As a result of these cumulative experiences, not to mention down time spent with various side projects--Grohl's Probot, Mendel's Fire Theft, Hawkins' Coattail Riders and Shiflett's Jackson United-the collective Foo Fighters would become more assured than ever that this was the final lineup of their band-for-life. In Your Honor would be their chance to commit that statement to music: The days of near-disintegration with every record had long since come to an end.
"Every album that we made, I'd always imagine it to be our last," Grohl recalls. "I think we all felt that way," adds Hawkins.
Cue In Your Honor's first single, the magnificent and grandiose "Best of You," which packs a career's worth of passion, rage and melody into a breathtaking 4:16. No coincidence that a lyric repeats "I swear I'll never give in/I refuse," elsewhere Grohl executing possibly the defining vocal of his career, rife with heartfelt sentiment on pertinent lines like "I'm getting tired of starting again/Somewhere new." Small wonder "Best Of You" is already tearing radio a new one and eliciting early press raves_
And so it goes over the course of In Your Honor's hard-as-nails first disc. Confessional screeds melding fury and melody with precarious balance and finesse on anthems "No Way Back," "DOA" and "The Last Song." With each successive track, it becomes more apparent why Hawkins calls disc 1 "the best rock record we've ever made," and Shiflett "can't wait" to leave the band's self-built 606 studio-cum-grownup-clubhouse to "get out and play these songs live." Deeper still into the first disc, "Resolve," "The Deepest Blues Are Black" and the closing "End Over End" find the band's formidable rock power channeled into more varying tempos and arrangements, more than making good on Hawkins' claim.