History dictates that once a rock band conquers the world -- like Nirvana did in the early '90s -- it's all downhill from there for individual band members; splinter groups formed after the band's demise are doomed to forever stand in its shadow. For the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, the odds were even less promising. Who would have thought Nirvana's drummer would go on to front one of the most popular rock bands ten years later? But that's what Grohl did, and he did it without resting on the laurels of his former band.
Grohl had begun drawing the blueprints for a solo career while still in Nirvana. Though the Foo Fighters' self-titled debut was largely the work of Grohl alone, he later embraced the notion of having a band that was more than just backing musicians. The Foos' latest album, 2005's In Your Honor (the "your" belonging to John Kerry), is its most accomplished offering yet. Coming three years after the release of One by One, the Foo Fighters' commercial high point (and, arguably, the band's artistic low point), In Your Honor solves a problem that has plagued hard-rock albums from the beginning: how to mix plaintive, acoustic ballads with full-powered rockers. The Foo Fighters' solution? Simple -- don't do it. The result is an album split into two ten-track discs: one that's full of the band's familiar blend of grungy, punky, pop rock, the other composed of light-as-a-feather acoustic ditties that show Grohl's softer side.
The album's guest appearances alone should offer an indication of just how much the Foo Fighters' sound has grown since its early days; Norah Jones and former Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones share a last name in common, but that's about it. (What about Davy Jones? Or Danko, for that matter?) Any way you look at it, the new Foo album is quite a departure from Probot, Grohl's metal-mad side project that he recorded last year with the likes of King Diamond and Lemmy Kilmister.
Because this is 2005 and we're all so techno-savvy and live in an age of musical piracy, In Your Honor was manufactured in two versions. One version is copy-protected, meaning it won't play in your computer unless you can verify that it's yours. The other is much more fun -- a double-sided disc with the album on one side and, on the other, a documentary DVD that gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the band made the album. Of course, that's the type of thing only the most hard-core Foo fans will watch more than once; there's no Metallica-styled infighting, just four guys trying their damnedest to put out a good album. Then again, that's why the Foo Fighters have endured for the past decade.
Grohl casts his own shadow now -- and it's one that looms heavily over today's highly eclectic musical climate. Hey, that's pretty good for someone who might have been known as just "that dude who played drums in Nirvana."