The American rock band, Foo Fighters, formed in Seattle, Washington in 1994. Originally conceived as a one-man band, it was led by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl after the passing of Kurt Cobain. The name of the band originated from a term used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs and other mysterious aerial phenomena seen flying over the skies of European and the Pacific theaters of operations. Since their inception, the band has released nine studio albums, including their latest release, Concrete and Gold. Their current lineup includes Grohl on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Nate Mendel on bass, Chris Shiflett on lead guitar and backing vocals, Pat Smear on rhythm and lead guitar and backing vocals, Taylor Hawkins on drums and backing vocals, and Rami Jaffee on keyboards.
Since Foo Fighters is one of my favorite bands of all time, I wanted to do something more than simply reviewing their latest record. These musicians have had such a strong career over the past 23 years that I wanted to celebrate all of their accomplishments by ranking each of their nine studio albums from worst to best.
9.) One By One (2002)
Kicking off the list is an album that I listened to quite often growing up. It was the first full album from the band that I owned, and at the time I loved it to bits and pieces. However, as I got older and my taste in music expanded beyond what was playing on modern rock stations, the album didn’t exactly age well. That doesn’t make it a bad album. All of their albums I’d score at least 6/10 for their well played instrumentals and a handful of standout tracks. In the case of One by One, which was the debut for then-new guitarist Chris Shiflett, things get off to a great start with “All My Life.” That streak continues with the rest of their singles, like “Low,” “Have it All” and “Times Like These.” It’s the second half of the album where things start to fall apart, ending on the overly long track “Come Back.” It’s the one Foo Fighters album in which I completely agree with critics calling it overproduced, which may have influenced the varying recording processes of later records.
8.) Sonic Highways
The gimmick for this album is that the band traveled to eight cities across the United States, where each track was recorded in the legendary studio of that city. For example, the lead single, “Something From Nothing” was recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago, and featured Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen on baritone guitar. I like the more loose, jam band vibe the album gives, and it almost reminded me at times of Santana’s 1999 album Supernatural with all of its collaborations with other artists. My only major issue with this record is that, unless you’ve seen the HBO documentary series Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, it loses quite a bit of impact as a stand alone, despite the band’s ambitions being generally commendable.
7.) Concrete and Gold
I have to admit, this was a weird listening experience. This was the band’s first collaboration with Grammy Award winning producer Greg Kurstin, who has created music with various pop sensations like Adele, Sia, Kelly Clarkson, and his own indie pop group The Bird and the Bee. Dave Grohl described the album’s sound as where “hard rock extremes and pop sensibilities collide,” and for the most part they were fairly successful in achieving that sound. The best example of this can be heard on the lead single “Run,” which has since become one of my all time favorite songs from the band. Other standout tracks include “Make It Right,” which features Justin Timberlake performing background vocals, and “Sunday Rain,” featuring Paul McCartney on drums and Taylor Hawkins taking over lead vocals. Not every song on the album sticks the landing on repeat, but I’m satisfied enough with the album as a whole.
6.) Nothing Left to Lose
My first exposure to the band as a whole was through the music video for “Learn to Fly,” which featured cameo appearances by Jack Black and Kyle Gass from Tenacious D. It’s a great video that complements an equally great song, of which this album is chock full. This is the first album to feature Taylor Hawkins on drums, and he makes an excellent first impression. I consider this to be part of the band’s transitional period, when they hadn’t quite nailed down their signature sound. However, unlike One by One, it still feels fresh upon every replay, especially on some of the heavier tracks like “Stacked Actors,” “Breakdown” and “Gimme Stitches.” Even though it’s sitting right outside the Top 5, this is the first time on this list I can call a Foo Fighters album “great.”
5.) Foo Fighters
Talk about early installment weirdness, I honestly have a hard time truly calling this a Foo Fighters album, since that wasn’t at all Dave Grohl’s intention when he recorded these tracks. Following the death of Kurt Cobain in April 1994, Grohl came close to quitting music altogether. It wasn’t until his performance with The Backbeat Band at the 1994 MTV Movie Awards that his spirits were lifted, and he was inspired to start his own project. Each of the twelve tracks on the album were written and recorded entirely by Grohl, with the exception of “X-Static,” which featured a guest guitar spot by Greg Dulli. My only issue with the album is the lo-fi production, but this is otherwise a great album from start to finish.
4.) Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
If there’s one person who deserves the most credit for how excellently this album turned out, it would have to be producer Gil Norton. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because he also produced The Color and the Shape, which we’ll talk more about later. According to Grohl, Norton was just the producer the band was looking for, helping them to put out a record they could truly be proud of. With Norton’s help, “we’re not going to do a straightforward AC/DC record, he’s going to make it different,” Grohl stated in an interview. Well, different it was, taking everything that worked on their previous records and refining it to near perfection. The only reason it isn’t higher on the list is because I just wasn’t as exposed to the album as much as I was to the next entries on this list.
3.) Wasting Light
Everything about this album is pure rock ‘n’ roll, from the band recording inside a garage using entirely analog equipment, to Grohl reuniting with his old producer Butch Vig. Vig was the one who helped turn Nirvana into an overnight sensation when he produced Nevermind, and here, twenty years later, he attempted to capture that same magic. There are no bells and whistles to be found on this record, with no heavy experimentation, and just the band going back to basic to what made them so great in the first place. Every song on the album delivers, from the singles like “Rope,” “These Days” and “Walk,” to the heavier tracks like “Bridges Burning” and “White Limo.” If you love Foo Fighters, this album needs to be in your collection.
2.) The Colour and the Shape
The hardest part of making this list was coming up with the order for the Top 5. To be completely honest, these last two albums are pretty much interchangeable, as both are responsible for turning me into the Foo Fighters fan I am today. In terms of The Colour and the Shape, you could look at this as the first true Foo Fighters album, as it was the first one to feature a full lineup, including Pat Smears on lead guitar, Nate Mendel on bass, and William Goldsmith on drums. Basically what this album doesn’t do is fall under the dreaded “sophomore slump,” and instead gave fans classic tracks such as “Hero,” “Everlong,” “Monkey Wrench,” and “Hey, Johnny Park.” Those are just a few of the reasons why this album is so beloved by Foo Fighters followers twenty years later.
1.) In Your Honor
It’s funny how my two favorite Foo Fighters albums also happen to be the only two so far to not win a single Grammy award. This album is awesome. It’s a double dose of everything that I love about the band. We wouldn’t have gotten the brilliance of their later records had In Your Honor not paved the way for their more ambitious experimentation. Disc One is the heavier side, with tracks like “No Way Back,” “DOA,” “Best of You,” and the opening title track melting your face off. On the flip side, Disc Two goes unplugged, cooling things down with songs like “Miracle,” “What If I Do,” “Virginia Moon,” and ending this right with “Razor.” I’m thankful that this album exists, and that it became a catalyst for everything that came after.
So, there we have it, this is how I would rank all nine Foo Fighters studio albums from worst to best. These guys have been going strong for 23 years, and they are a gift to the rock music scene. Now it’s your turn, what are YOUR favorite Foo Fighters albums? Drop your lists down in the comments below, and thank you for checking out Geeksandgamers.com, your one-stop shop for all your geeky needs.