Rank and File
AN EXHAUSTIVE, COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF POP-CULTURE ICONS AND ARTIFACTS

Ranking: Every Foo Fighters Song from Worst to Best

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Rank and File finds us sorting through an exhaustive, comprehensive body of work or collection of pop-culture artifacts. This time, we sort through every Foo Fighters song and admire all the pretty colours and shapes.

Dave Grohl won’t go away. That’s a good thing. We like the guy. He’s friendly, he’s one hell of a drummer, and he loves rock ‘n’ roll. So much so that he’s managed to stand at the top of the genre for decades, and despite some major hurdles — you know, like losing Nirvana — he’s yet to miss a beat. He’s basically the closest thing Generation X has to McCartney.

With Foo Fighters, Grohl has become one of the most recognizable faces in not only the genre but the music industry. Nobody can forget his mug, and while some may attribute that success to his uncanny optimism, the reality is that his band is always in the charts whenever they have a new album. Those kids just can’t get enough of Foo.

Because of this, six Foo fans decided to rank every Foo Fighters song, including every song off their latest release, Concrete and Gold. Naturally, there are the usual caveats: No songs are included that have only been released in demo form, and no covers will be found here. We learned a lot about the band in the process, but most noticeably these three items:

— Grohl knows how to pick a single.
— Foo B-sides are B-sides for a reason.
— This band’s highs are as high as any other artists’ highs. High!

So, enjoy this long road to … success! We were certainly “exhausted” when all was said and done, but “big me” to talk about it. Here’s the best, the best, the best, the best of…

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137. “Cold Day in the Sun”

In Your Honor (2005)

Oh, don’t get so up in arms. Something had to go here. And if we can be perfectly honest, it’ll be a cold day in hell before we feel the need to revisit “Cold Day in the Sun”. Everything we love about the Foos has been sanded down, polished up, and neutered three times over. This song should be playing in a hammy movie montage of people over-enthusiastically shopping for pants and sweaters in chain department stores. If that’s the demographic Hawkins and co. were aiming for (the khaki contingent), they nailed it. –Matt Melis

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136. “Walking a Line”

One by One Special Limited Edition (2002)

Proof that a bonus isn’t always a good thing, this One by One bonus track can be filed under “too much of a bad thing.” Forget the painfully strung-together clichés or the tedious repetition that make the song play three days over its actual runtime; a rock song that agitates a bit can be a good thing, but this B-side is the equivalent of a fly you just can’t swat away, one that keeps buzzing you “over and over and over again.” Sorry if anyone reading danced at their wedding to this song. That’s your problem, not mine. –Matt Melis
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135. “The Line”

Concrete and Gold (2017)

Concrete and Gold’s most forgettable song stands out for the wrong reasons; it disrupts the paisley-fringed sonics for a bizarre detour into big, ‘80s guitar jangle like it mistook the Psychedelic Furs for actual psychedelia. It’s big and plodding, of course, but it doesn’t really belong, nor would it add much to any other Foos record either. Maybe a cell phone commercial. –Dan Weiss

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134. “The Feast and the Famine”

Sonic Highways (2014)

The cruel joke of the Foos’ tribute to the D.C. hardcore movement of Grohl’s youth is how thin it all sounds. Even when the members of his old band Scream join in for the shout-along chorus, their voices are buried so low in the mix that the song never achieves the scene-power Grohl is so fond of singing about. –Dan Caffrey

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133. “Word Forward”

Greatest Hits (2009)

Grohl’s eulogy to a dead friend has moments of emotional resonance, which soon get sapped by the repetition of the awkward title pun. –Dan Caffrey
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132. “Spill”

“Best of You” single

The most rewarding aspect to any Foo Fighters B-side is the way you can pinpoint how the band goes through the motions in the studio. More often than not, they sorely lack in any hooks or melodies and have as much flavor as a slice of Melba Toast. They also go on for far too long. “Spill” hits the bull’s-eye on every one of these points. It’s like being stuck in a waiting room with a friend who can’t talk because he or she’s got their tonsils removed. Fun. –Michael Roffman

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131. “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners”

Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (2007)

This entry deserves, at the very least, some slight admiration for its intent. After meeting an Australian miner who survived the Beaconsfield mine collapse, Grohl was moved to discover that, while trapped, the man requested an iPod with In Your Honor on it. As a tribute to him and the rest of the miners, Grohl dedicated a song to them on the band’s next album. Unfortunately, the instrumental “Ballad” sticks out like a blackened thumb on the otherwise rock-heavy Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Grohl and guitar virtuoso Kaki King pluck up a storm, but the rusticity becomes nothing more than a (thankfully short) interruption in the heavier work at play. –Dan Caffrey
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130. “Concrete and Gold”

Concrete and Gold (2017)

The title track to the Foos’ most sonically ambitious album ever succumbs to its weakness for, well, everlong tracks in the third act, slouching and droning onward rather then dazzling with dexterity and poise. This is a closet shoegaze band for many (“Aurora!” “February Stars!”) so I get it, but this is closer to exhausted than “Exhausted”. –Dan Weiss

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129. “Something from Nothing”

Sonic Highways (2014)

The first piece of new Foo music we heard post-Wasting Light was in the trailer for the HBO documentary series Sonic Highways. It was a snippet of this track, and had we known what was to come, we would have created a petition on Change.org to cease production. Nickelback has better riffs. –Justin Gerber

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128. “Better Off”

Wasting Light Deluxe Version (2011)

Imagine a tamer version of “The One”, and you have this track. The line “you are my favorite disaster” is a derivative take on Sheryl Crow’s “My Favorite Mistake” from many years earlier. A mid-tempo throwaway of a bonus track that wouldn’t have ruined Wasting Light, but the record is definitely “better off” without it. I apologize for nothing. –Justin Gerber

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127. “I Am a River”

Sonic Highways (2014)

On Grohl’s full-length album of geographical mad-libs, the album-closing New York ode doesn’t even attempt subtlety with its quick references to Soho and subways. Instead, it is one of the most pandering tracks in the band’s catalog, aiming for drama and catharsis with its titular refrain, but landing on something you’d rather would float away with the rest of the Hudson’s trash. –Philip Cosores

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126. “Virginia Moon”

In Your Honor (2005)

Bossa nova isn’t the best look for the Foo Fighters, especially on a double album whose second disc is already fighting against its own invariant softness. The backing vocals from Norah Jones only thicken the lethargy. –Dan Caffrey

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125. “Subterranean”

Sonic Highways (2014)

Recorded in Seattle for that city’s moment in the HBO doc/album Sonic Highways, “Subterranean” is very much about Grohl’s rough (to say the least) period between Nirvana and Foo Fighters. “Subterranean” is Grohl finding the drive to keep going for it. We’re happy as hell that Foo Fighters happened, but we’re down in the dumps its seeds were told in such a boring song. –Justin Gerber

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124. “Disenchanted Lullaby”

One by One (2002)

Lullabies are designed to coax the listener to sleep. Unfortunately, it’s usually a bad sign when a rock song has the same effect. This is a perfect example of how the soft-loud dynamic that the Foos built their legacy upon requires more than just cranking the volume at some point. This song feels like your kid brother screaming into your ear seconds after you finally nod off. That ain’t pleasant. And guess what — he does it again a bit later and then proceeds to run around the room banging a pot and a pan. Why did mom and dad, um, I mean Dave Grohl, think we needed this aggravation? –Matt Melis

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123. “The Deepest Blues Are Black”

In Your Honor (2005)

It’s hard to pinpoint the worst sound to happen on a Foo Fighters song. But high on the list would be during the chorus of the high school diary poetics of “The Deepest Blues Are Black”. When Grohl goes for broke screaming the song’s title, it sounds strikingly close to regurgitation. It’s probably the “blaaaaaaahhhh” sound. –Philip Cosores

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122. “Wheels”

Greatest Hits (2009)

I’ll always be an apologist for the shameless crossover bid of this song’s chorus but a stubborn critic of its pop-country production. Genre-spanning aside, it’s rare that the Foos ever need more gloss on their already stadium-sized songs. –Dan Caffrey

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121. “I Should Have Known”

Wasting Light (2011)

Grohl will probably go the rest of his career with fans reading Kurt Cobain into his songs. After singing the lyrics of “I Should Have Known”, which he wrote about someone other than Cobain, even Grohl started seeing connections and second-guessing himself. With former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic in tow, it’s a song about regret that regrettably never quite achieves the catharsis that its confessional epiphany aims for. An admirable stab, though. –Matt Melis

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120. “In the Clear”

Sonic Highways (2014)

Almost a decade since Hurricane Katrina nearly drowned New Orleans, the message that the city and people are still fighting to overcome that disaster ranks as important as any found on Sonic Highways. Grohl’s internalizing the city’s plight as one man’s struggle works well, but like so many of the cuts on this project, we’re left wondering what might have been if the recording process had been more deliberate. It’s a damp song that might have yielded a truly triumphant ode had it been given the time and air to dry out and reveal its true hues. –Matt Melis

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119. “The Colour and the Shape”

“Monkey Wrench” single

A younger cousin of “Weenie Beenie”, this would-be title track has nary a hook to be found in its riffage — something that was always the secret weapon of its older relative. The heaviness never took away from the catchiness and vice versa. –Dan Caffrey

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118. “Win or Lose”

“All My Life” single

“Make a Bet” and “Win or Lose” are the same songs released as B-sides one album apart. The latter is a bit heavier than the former in order to better fit on One by One, but as for which one is “better?” To paraphrase the Alien vs. Predator tagline: Whatever wins, we lose. –Justin Gerber

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117. “Make a Bet”

“Learn to Fly” single

See the above entry for “Win or Lose”. Oh, did we mention Alien v. Predator? Just checking. –Justin Gerber
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116. “Sunday Rain”

Concrete and Gold (2017)

The longest tune on Concrete and Gold overplays those Beatles moves for six minutes, jamming on a “Come Together” beat without really accomplishing much that Noel Gallagher hasn’t already. That said, it would probably be the best Oasis song in years if those guys thought of it first. –Dan Weiss

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115. “Skin and Bones”

“DOA” single

The soothing, albeit ominous, vibes of this In Your Honor B-side are intriguing enough to let you ignore the fact that it’s exceedingly repetitive. It sounds like a church hymn and wouldn’t be out of place in one given the song’s bleak existential imagery and themes. Let’s just say, it warranted a great DVD concert experience of the same name. –Michael Roffman

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114. “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness”

Sonic Highways (2014)

Of Sonic Highways’ many sins, high on the list is the Foo Fighters abandoning the revitalized urgency of Wasting Light in favor of half-baked classic rock callbacks. “What Did I Do?/God as My Witness” splashes in that uninspired puddle for its first half, but things get particularly muddy when it turns on a dime for an overwrought conclusion. What’s worse than one ho-hum song? Two of them. –Philip Cosores

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113. “Dear Lover”

Scream 2 Soundtrack (1997)

The melody of both this and the first half of “February Stars” are very similar. It would be easy to assume Grohl had to decide which would make the album, and he obviously made the right choice (as you’ll read later). This forgettable track wound up on the Scream 2 soundtrack (a movie that is underrated, but you won’t read about that later). –Justin Gerber

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112. “FFL”

“Best of You” single

“FFL” (an acronym for Fat Fucking Lie), if nothing else, can let you blow off some steam. Just don’t drive to it. You’ll end up getting a fat fucking speeding ticket from a fat fucking … okay, quitting while behind. Shit, my probation officer’s calling me. Great, perfect, grand. –Matt Melis

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111. “Summer’s End”

Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (2007)

For a guy who grew up in Virginia, Dave Grohl has always had a hard time writing about its natural beauty with any kind of specificity. As with “Virginia Moon”, the lyrics never move beyond the stereotypical country imagery of cherry wine, moonshine, and the like. Bottom’s up. –Dan Caffrey

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110. “Normal”

“Times Like These” single

If it didn’t feel so 2002, we might give this one higher praise. But c’mon, this sounds as if it were recorded strictly for an early season of Smallville, and before you start giving me shit for that remark, know that this writer owns all 10 seasons of that show on DVD. But even I’m willing to admit some parts were pretty damn cheesy. Like this song. –Michael Roffman

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109. “Tired of You”

One by One (2002)

It’s not just the title; Grohl sounds absolutely exhausted on “Tired of You”. You can really feel the weight on his shoulders, which may or may not have been a result of the arduous recording process rearing its ugly head. (One by One was not a fun time for the band.) According to the man behind the microphone, Queen’s Brian May over-dubbed the four-part guitar harmonies in the chorus, which is about the most interesting part of it. This is one instance where the repetition becomes, well, tiring. –Michael Roffman

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108. “Podunk”

“Big Me” single

When in doubt of a song’s tunefulness, smother it in distortion, give the vocal the ol’ “Weenie Beenie” treatment, and call it a B-side. –Dan Caffrey

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107. “M.I.A.”

There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)

Admit it. Three tracks into …Nothing Left to Lose and you thought the Foos had caught lightning in a bottle again and delivered …Colour and the Shape II. By the time Hawkins taps us out of closer “M.I.A.”, we know that’s not quite the case. Still, kudos to Grohl growling us back awake after a fairly quiet Side-B that could use a bit more racket. –Matt Melis

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106. “Empty Handed”

Songs From the Laundry Room EP (2015)

Songs from the Laundry Room was a 2015 Record Store Day Release, and it’s a cool get due to early demos of both “Alone + Easy Target” and “Big Me”, both recorded in the waning days of Nirvana. The previously unreleased “Empty Handed” is just the scream section from “Everlong” stretched out to two minutes. Not quite as cool as you’d think. –Justin Gerber

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105. “Iron Rooster”

Saint Cecilia EP (2015)

Following Sonic Highways, the Saint Cecelia EP found the Foos playing the part of orange-vested road crew out patching things up in more ways than one. On one hand, the EP saw release in response to the Paris terrorist attacks and was intended to be something positive to help those healing. On the other, it also found the band mending themselves. If Sonic Highways had been a heady concept (a goodhearted one, too), songs like “Iron Rooster” brought the Foos back to the mantra of “keep it simple, stupid.” When you’re a rock band as talented as the Foo Fighters, that’s sage advice to heed. –Matt Melis

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104. “The Sign”

In Your Honor (2005) Bonus Track

The lead guitar line is like a mosquito that won’t stop filling up with blood, growing from harmless to grating in the space of four minutes. Eventually, you can’t remember any of the positive traits in “The Sign”. Bzzzzz … POP! –Dan Caffrey

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103. “Seda”

“Long Road to Ruin” single

Part of me thinks “Seda” deserves a higher spot on this list for its soothing properties. Then again, the brushed drumming and gentle acoustic guitar never break through the trappings of coffee-house prettiness. Like several of the B-sides from Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, there’s just not a whole lot going on. –Dan Caffrey

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102. “Over and Out”

In Your Honor (2005)

This track was actually written during the There Is Nothing Left to Lose era but wasn’t fully realized until the recording of LP5. Instead of landing as a forgettable B-side a year earlier, it serves as padding for a double album. Can you imagine how good that album would have been as a single disc? Sigh. –Justin Gerber

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101. “Fraternity”

“Generator” single

Dave Grohl has managed to get away with subpar or just plain nonsensical lyrics in the past by obscuring them with the instrumentation (see most of the Foo Fighters’ first album). Unfortunately, on “Fraternity”, his condemnation of frat culture (we think?) rings loud and clear. The whole concept feels a little strange, given that so many of the band’s fans are bros drawn to the machismo of songs like this. As such, the words undermine what’s actually a fairly decent bit of power pop. –Dan Caffrey

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