Some things never change, but the Foo Fighters aren't one of them.
Formed in 1995 by ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who had been stockpiling unreleased solo material ever since the 1991
release of Nevermind, the original quartet (Grohl, guitarist Pat Smear and a pair of Sunny Day Real Estate refugees,
bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith) imploded quickly. After touring in support of Foo Fighters, the
eponymous debut album featuring Grohl on every instrumental and vocal track, Goldsmith laid down a scant few tracks for 1997's
follow-up, The Colour and the Shape, before leaving the fold.
Smear defected shortly thereafter, creating a void that would be filled, however briefly, by guitarist Franz Stahl. By
the time Grohl was ready to begin work on 1999's There Is Nothing Left to Lose, the Foo Fighters had been whittled
down to a three-piece, with Mendel and onetime Alanis Morissette drummer Taylor Hawkins. Guitarist Chris Shiflett, formerly
of No Use For a Name, signed on shortly after the album's completion.
If internal strife and near-constant turnover have taken their toll on the Foo Fighters, it has never been reflected in
their raucous, infectious brand of power-pop. With each successive effort, Grohl's supremely self-assured songwriting has
grown more sophisticated, his lyrics more eloquent and personal, and his vocal range more impressive. To be sure, the original
Foo Fighters was a stunning solo tour de force, proof that Grohl's talents were far greater and more diverse than most
Nirvana fans had imagined. Yet nothing could have prepared those fans for the leaps and bounds the Foo Fighters would take
on Nothing Left to Lose, which found Grohl combining his most introspective lyrics to date with a collection of songs
that mixed tempos and styles without compromising the band's furious punk-pop sound.
The group's latest, One By One, is Grohl's most ambitious work to date, picking up where Nothing Left to Lose
left off. Veering away from the sparse, no-frills approach that was so evident on Foo Fighters and Colour and
the Shape, the band indulges its progressive-rock tendencies without embracing the pompous affectations of the genre.
(Tellingly, the average song length has increased from 3:15 on their debut to 5:00 on One By One.)
Even so, the Foo Fighters stay true to their punk roots: "All My Life," the album's first single, is a lightning-paced
rocker in the tradition of "Stacked Actors" and "I'll Stick Around," complete with bludgeoning riffs and Grohls signature
howl. But One By One, a near-concept album that chronicles a never-ending struggle with relationships -- from pre-marital
anxieties to post-marital doubt -- boasts plenty of extended jams, jumbo-sized hooks and the kind of thunderous guitar licks
that would make Black Sabbath proud. Indeed, the album's finest cuts ("Disenchanted Lullaby," "Halo," "Come Back") forsake
the brevity of earlier hits like "This is a Call" and "Big Me," but Grohl's brooding, impassioned vocals and bruising melodies
ensure that nothing is lost in the translation. -- Rossiter Drake