When news leaked out that the new Foo Fighters album was going to contain a duet between Dave Grohl and the Queen Of Easy Listening, Norah Jones, there was a collective intake of breath from the Foos’ multitude of fans.
Had their worst fears been confirmed? Had Grohl’s doom-metal Probot project gotten all the rock music out of his system so that he could turn Foo Fighters from band to bland?
No, he reassured us. Instead, In Your Honour was going to be the Foos’ defining moment. There would be two discs, “one loud, one not so loud” (as the CD sticker says). It would be their very own Physical Graffiti. Heck, they’d even get John Paul Jones to guest on a couple of songs.
So has Grohl been true to his word or is In Your Honour only graffiti in the sense of it being like writing on the wall? Thank goodness it’s not the latter…
Even before getting to the music, there’s much in In Your Honour’s favour. They’ve changed the title’s spelling for us Brits – a source of joy for the pedantic amongst us – while the fact that there’s nigh on 90 minutes of music should shame any supposedly anti-corporate, Armenian-American bands who choose to release two full-priced albums in a year, which have a far shorter total running time.
Luckily the music on In Your Honour is pretty good too, especially if you quit trying to judge it as a 21-track set, and instead treat the “loud” disc as a perfectly acceptable new Foo Fighters album and the “not so loud” disc as an interesting, but purely bonus accompaniment.
“Loud” really is the Foos that millions have come to know and love over the past decade. It is clean, polished rock with a vaguely punk edge that stays within a clear set of boundaries but in doing so manages to appeal to indie-kids and metal-lovers alike. In this respect, at least, Foo Fighters aren’t so unlike a certain trio from Seattle…
There are no duff tracks on “loud” and whether it be in the atmospherics of the title track, the anthemy of The Last Song, the memorably clamorous Free Me, the radio-friendly Resolve or the breakneck, space-rock of The Sign, this is the sound of a band who know what they do and do it damn well.
Of course, Monsieur Grohl also knows how to do “not so loud”, something we first heard on Marigold, the B-side to Heart-Shaped Box, and later witnessed in the likes of Walking After You, one of the Foos’ biggest hits.
Disc two is a natural extension of these two tracks. In truth, some of it is blatantly self-indulgent – the “guest list” speaks as much with the aforementioned Joneses (Norah and John Paul), Josh Homme, The Wallflowers‘ keyboardist Rami Jaffee, photographer Danny Clinch doing harmonica and even their guitar tech and producer chipping in.
However, for the most part its dreamy, unplugged vibe is perfect chill-out music and reaches a zenith in Over And Out, where Jaffee’s keys add string-like texture and Grohl’s voice is impressively mellifluous. Meanwhile, the more upbeat Cold Day In The Sun is also interesting as Grohl exchanges duties with drummer Taylor Hawkins, who exhibits a curiously Cobain-esque husk.
And so it turns out that there was nothing to worry about. With In Your Honour, the Foo Fighters have proven that they still rock, yet more loudly and more quietly than they have before. And we didn’t even mention that bossanova duet with Norah. It’s crap, by the way…