The Foo Fighters new release In Your Honor has been touted by Dave Grohl as the definitive Foo album. Comparing it to Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, Grohl claims this will be the album that all future fans can pick up for the complete essence of the Foo Fighters.
As if those ambitions weren't lofty enough, In Your Honor is a double album. Disc one is designed to include the most rocking and aggressive songs of the band's catalogue while disc two is the most gentle and dreamy. Ambition is essential for rock and roll; every great double album has been fueled by intense ambition, an overabundance of ego and maybe a hint of insane brilliance. A double album can be a triumph or a tragedy.
In Your Honor is a success on some levels but also very disappointing on others. Immediately, Grohl's vocals are in the forefront and whether he is screaming, crooning or whispering he remains engaging throughout and his vocals provide the consistent highlight through both discs. As good as his vocals are it seems like he forgot to write enough songs. This is most evident on the first disc. Every Foo Fighter album has been marked with a few outstanding songs and a clunker here and there. In Your Honor follows in this tradition but it seems like the clunkers have all fallen on disc one.
The "aggressive" disc is fairly aggressive, in Foo terms, but each song sounds too similar. Like a worker in a steel factory, Grohl can churn out songs but disc one feels like leftovers from his better songs. To put it in one word, generic. The title track, "DOA" and the Zeppelinesque "Hell" are highlights, if not completely memorable.
Disc two fares much better, like the band actually showed up to put something into these songs. The acoustic guitar work is beautiful and Grohl's vocals are even better in this setting. The band stretches out on these songs, offering up something different from the typical acoustic ballads found on their previous albums. "Virginia Moon" with Nora Jones would have never fit on any prior Foo album but it is a highlight on this set.
Drummer Taylor Hawkins takes a turn at vocals on "Cold Day in the Sun", the kind of jangly pop rock REM used to do so well. Josh Homme returns a favor to Grohl playing guitar on album closer "Razor". Disc two is so varied and appealing that it may actually make up for disc one.
The Foo Fighters stretched themselves too thin to cover a double album. In Your Honor would have been leaps and bounds better if it were condensed to one disc that offered the cream of the crop. Sometimes ambition takes the place of good judgment. It looks like the definitive Foo album may still be on the horizon, but in the meantime we have another addition to the steady and generally pleasing career of the Foo Fighters. Here's hoping they can step up into the "essential" and "timeless" category that could be right at their fingertips.