Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we’re ushering in Foo Fighters Week with a definitive ranking of the rockers’ discography.
“Reliable” is perhaps the most apt term to describe Foo Fighters’ legacy in 2022. Across ten albums, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear, Nate Mendel, Chris Shifflett, Taylor Hawkins, and most recent member Rami Jaffee have seemingly cracked the code for rock in the 21st century. There’s an unapologetic earnestness and vigor, led with ease by Grohl, that has characterized all of the band’s biggest songs and albums. Even on their weaker LPs, the band just doesn’t miss.
Originally existing as a solo project for Grohl after the tragic passing of Kurt Cobain, Foo Fighters’ sonic evolution began in a small, introspective way, before eventually transforming into a cathartic, powerhouse six-member outfit. These days, Foo Fighters are not only one of the best selling rock acts of all time, they’re revered heavily for their ethos and philosophy, prioritizing the spirit of creating rock music in its purest form above all else.
Over 25 years into their existence, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers have conquered the music world without scandals or compromising their essence. Grohl has aged, certainly, but he’s done so with wisdom, grace, and his trademark humor, ever the champion of newer artists carrying the Foos’ torch and proudly maintaining his platform of rock icon. To this day, each news headline involving Grohl’s name is more heartwarming than the last.
We write A LOT about Foo Fighters here at Consequence, and trust us, we’re aware — but we write so much about them because of how undeniable their presence in modern rock music is, and how well they’ve maintained their status and image without losing their edge.
Many of us, including this writer, have experienced defining and life changing moments at Foo Fighters shows. (We’re looking forward to getting more of our fill at their upcoming stadium dates.) And if you love music, the band makes it incredibly easy to connect with them.
Here are each of Foo Fighters’ ten studio albums ranked.
— Paolo Ragusa
10. Sonic Highways (2014)
Runtime: 42 minutes, 8 tracks
Kudos, My Hero: Foo Fighters recorded each song on Sonic Highways in a different city, drawing inspiration from the environments and musical history within which they were working. They used local engineers and musicians to polish off the album in these various studios, but rather than get a new producer for each city, the band recruited longtime producer Butch Vig to round everything out.
The Best of You: “Outside” was recorded in the California desert and features a stellar solo from Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. Though the track takes the experience of getting out of the city and into the natural environment of the desert quite literally, it’s definitely one of the most curious and cathartic songs on Sonic Highways.
It bears mentioning once again that Walsh’s pivotal extended solo throughout the song’s bridge is one of the brightest moments on the album — and the band agrees About the solo, Hawkins said, “If you’re gonna have Joe Walsh on your album, you’re not gonna just give him four bars. You’re gonna give him 40 bars and take us out into the fuckin’ desert, man!”
The Pretender: “In the Clear” is one of those odd Foo Fighters tracks that fails to leave any kind of impression. Taking inspiration from the jazz hall acts of New Orleans, Foo Fighters couldn’t quite manage blending those styles with their own, failing to echo the stories of The Big Easy’s prolific musical backdrop.
Stacked to the Rafters: “Something From Nothing” came out with a bang — and a lot of that had to do with the album’s accompanying HBO mini series Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways. With an opening that calls “The Pretender” to mind, Foo Fighters truly build “something from nothing,” starting small and eventually exploding with pure rock and roll energy.
Them Balloons Are Pretty Big: Foo Fighters may not have won any awards for Sonic Highways, but the docuseries was a major move for the band — as we know from their upcoming horror-comedy film Studio 666, the Foos are definitely good on camera.
When I Sing Along with You: The puzzling thing about Sonic Highways is that when watching the series, you really get the sense that this band cares about music, history, and the powerful dynamics that tie it all together from city to city. Yet, even with all the various genres represented by its guest stars, the album doesn’t contain nearly enough experimentation or risk-taking from Foo Fighters.
A lot of the songs seem to fall flat or feel rushed, and though Grohl’s lyrics were inspired by these locations, he ended up using this inspiration in a much more literal and on-the-nose way. There are some gems, as there are on all Foo Fighters albums, but Sonic Highways doesn’t quite reach the payoff that its high ambitions were expecting. — P.R.