Dusting 'Em Off
Revisiting an album, a film, or an event on its anniversary

Dusting Em' Off: Foo Fighters – There is Nothing Left to Lose

on April 09, 2011, 8:00am


Foo Fighters have had more line-ups than The Temptations. Scratch that. I apologize for such an untrue and borderline heinous opening statement. For the albums One by One, In Your Honor, and Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace, they were the very model of consistency. You could remove the pencil and etch their members in with a pen: singer/guitarist Dave Grohl, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins, and guitarist Chris Shiflett.

However, changes are afoot once again with their most recent foray, Wasting Light. An addition to their most stable line-up comes in the form of a most welcomed ghost from their past: guitarist Pat Smear. This could amount to a quality we haven’t heard since the Foo’s best record (and the last to feature Smear), 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. Readers may recall Smear and Grohl played together in some other band before Foo Fighters launched into the record-sphere.

Let’s go back to that brief period in time that took place after Smear left Foo Fighters at the end of the 20th century, an album recorded before Shiflett joined the band. Holed up in Grohl’s home studio, the three-piece line-up consisting of Grohl, Mendel, and Hawkins created There is Nothing Left to Lose. The record still holds up, and were it not for a few duds at album’s end, it could have elevated from a good album to a very good album. Wha? Let’s break it down.

Singles should be a solid basis for what the album is all about, and the singles chosen for the record are highly indicative of that. “Learn to Fly” and “Breakout” were the big two and displayed Grohl & Co. in full-on pop-rock mode. The former gets a lot of grief for being such a sugary song, but the band doesn’t need to apologize. It was a huge hit and proved Foo Fighters were here to stay. The third U.S. single was “Next Year”…it was featured in the television program, Ed…uh…

The less said about “Next Year” the better. It is part of a triumvirate of tracks that hinder the quality of There is Nothing Left to Lose; three mid-tempo tracks that completely derail the latter third of the album. Aside from that track, the other two guilty offenders come in the forms of the middling “Ain’t It the Life” and the never-ending “M.I.A.”. Why the band and co-producer Adam Kasper elected for these two tracks to close out the proceedings is beyond the mental facilities of this writer.

Fortunately, the rest of the album is terrific. “Stacked Actors” is still one of the heaviest songs the band has recorded, a grungy call to Grohl’s past. With deceiving verses dependent on Grohl’s sweetly sung lyrics, the song keeps diving into a lo-fi chorus of fuzzy guitars, distorted bass, and drumbeats that seem to stab rather than pound. It’s also notable as the first studio album track to feature the great Taylor Hawkins behind that murderous drum kit.

The past few albums from the band have a few solid singles but also a few too many tracks that define “filler.” On There is Nothing Left to Lose, the non-singles are just as memorable. The talk box is used to tremendous effect throughout “Generator”, with a rapid-fire rhythm section courtesy of Mendel and Hawkins. “Aurora” is one of the band’s finest tracks both musically and lyrically:

I just kinda died for you
You just kinda stared at me
We will always have the chance
We can do this one more time

Also, in dusting off this record, I made an interesting discovery: Grohl doesn’t shout “I’m a mountain” in “Live-In Skin” (it’s actually “I’m amounted”).

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