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Foo Fighters:: In Your Honor (Album Review)

When Nirvana split (or rather, when Kurt Cobain blew his head off) the odds on Dave Grohl making it solo must have been pretty stiff. OK, he’d sung a so-so B-side (“Marigold”) and most people had a soft spot for the goofy drummer, but of the two remaining members, it seemed Krist Novoselic had the best chance of making it. But, ten years down the line, while Novoselic is a pilot and political activist (anyone remember Sweet 75 ?) Grohl is one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. Go, as the Americans say, figure. Over the course of four albums, his Foo Fighters have proved themselves supreme masters at repackaging Cobain’s angst and quiet-loud-quiet formula into a more enduring capsule. Whether Grohl suddenly got bored of this formula is unclear, but “In Your Honor” finds his band reaching for their own version of OutKast’s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”, with a two-sided double album. Ten helpings of rock, with ten acoustic side-orders to follow. There’s even a Norah Jones connection (the Blue Note jazzer duetted with Andre 3000, and she turns up here on the low-key bossa nova of “Virginia Moon”). But while OutKast’s imagination was outrageously unlimited in the extreme, Grohl’s mob remain fundamentally earthbound. For all its delusions of grandeur, “In Your Honor” sounds unerringly like you’d expect it to. Of the two, the rock side is actually the least fulfilling. Lead off single “Best Of You” is solid enough and the opening title track features Grohl at his most guttural, but much of the rest sounds like Foos-by-numbers. Maybe all those Probot side projects and guest appearances with QOTSA and Brian May have spread his talents a little thin, but nothing quite hits the spot under the skin like “My Hero” or “Everlong” did. It’s not lacking passion or hooks (the likes of “No Way Back” and “The Last Way Back” have plenty) just personality. On the whole it blurs into a bunch of riffs in search of a song. The acoustic set is the more memorable, even if, for all intents and purposes, it’s essentially a Dave Grohl solo record. Tastefully arranged and augmented by all manner of soft instrumentation the results are calming, melodic and occasionally affecting. Most touching of all is “Friend Of A Friend”, a beautiful lament for Cobain dating from 1992. More illuminating than the public outing of any number of private diaries, this is as close to the bone as any of us will get to living inside the stifling and cancerous post-“Nevermind” bubble. “He thinks he drinks too much because when he tells his two best friends, ‘I think I drink too much’, no one speaks,” sings Grohl in a voice full of regret, tenderness and tears. At such moments, “In Your Honor” seems a worthwhile exercise, and ultimately it brings to mind, not OutKast, but another ambitious double set: Husker Du’s “Warehouse Songs & Stories”. Like Bob Mould and Grant Hart’s excessive swansong, it is not the Foo’s finest moment, but for all its flaws and flab, this meandering record may just become one we all learn to love. (by Adam Webb)