It always comes back to chicken vs. egg. Always.
When first discovering music, it was an undisputable fact that my father had the best taste in music. FACT. Van Halen, Rush, Judas Priest, and Metallica. Many more fill his Best Of. I mention those four bands specifically because they were some of the biggest names of the ‘80s. BUT…if you were there from the jump before everyone–are you a true believer or just part of the unruly mob of wannabe fans? I now understand my father’s pain as Foo Fighters have become America’s rock band for the past decade. I WAS THERE FROM THE BEGINNING. Also, a fact.
Sure, there were pretenders: The White Stripes, The Black Keys, to name a couple, but look at the hits: the Grammys, but more importantly, the headlining sets at major music festivals. The Foo Fighters are it.
If you cite the album that makes the band, that’s the shibboleth. And that’s what bring us here as Foo Fighters’ sophomore release, The Colour and The Shape, celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Some argue the Foo’s 1995 self-titled debut as their best album. While that album is the perfect eulogy for the Seattle-sound, Colour is the album that crystallized the sound of the band. It is growth on all fronts. Songs like “Monkey Wrench” and “Everlong” lyrically had a point of view. Dave Grohl promising to “never be your monkey wrench” or promising “not to stop when I say when” show love and loss that was present and heart-on-sleeve but also matter-of-fact. Musically, the band had defined themselves: much more muscular work from the guitars; More song dynamics aside from the Pixies/Nirvana soft-loud tug of war. The way the band plays with fuzz and acoustics is a how to guide for beginning garage bands and master class for veteran rockers.
Listen to the singles, “Monkey Wrench” and “My Hero,” songs that are still in constant rotation on all rock radio formats because they sound timeless. Hooky riffs, epic choruses, straight ahead song structure with subtleties to keep things interesting. Lest we forget that this was amid the myriad rap-metal bands that were a poor man’s Limp Bizkit, let alone the artistry of a Deftones. Remember Kid Rock? You get my point.
Shape’s highlight must be the four-song suite of “February Stars,” “Everlong,” “Walking After You,” and “New Way Home.” Here we see Colour as the pseudo-concept album it was meant to be as a document of Foo leader Dave Grohl’s time in therapy post-divorce. The arc of falling in love, hanging onto said love, losing it and coming out stronger.
Ultimately, what makes this album definitive is that it served as a guiding light for the Foo Fighters ever since. Most bands make their opus and then shy away from that sound to prove they are diverse. Here we see the band find their voice and continue onto bigger greatness. And it all starts with The Colour and The Shape.