15 underrated Foo Fighters songs
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Everyone has that one band or musician that they would go to the ends of the earth for.
Okay, maybe not that dramatically, but there is an undeniable special connection between artists and their fans that cannot be replicated. It’s unique to each individual, with songs and albums creating memories and safe spaces that are significant to them and them alone.
Whenever I’m asked the dreaded question of ‘who’s your favourite band’, and I answer with ‘Foo Fighters’, there is almost always two answers. Either ‘Who?’ or the dreaded sigh and a roll of the eyes, along with a comment on how ‘mediocre’ or ‘overplayed’ they are.
But when it comes to Foo Fighters, their history and discography are so deep with ties to multiple genres and musicians that is unfathomable once you begin to unravel it.
And that’s where your resident Foo Fighters aficionado comes in. Whether you’ve only just discovered the band or believe that they are only known for their singles, here are some gems that do not receive enough attention.
Songs from the Laundry Room EP (2015)
When it comes to Foo Fighters rarities, Record Store Day often delivers bounties of treasure. 2015 was the pinnacle of it all when Songs from the Laundry Room dropped and gave us access to some of the first demos from the Dave Grohl-centric first Foo Fighters record.
Produced by Barrett Jones at the legendary Laundry Room Studios in Arlington, Virginia, Grohl plays all the instruments on the tracks of the demo, and Foo Fighters subsequent debut release in 1995. Grohl wrote the majority of songs for the debut before or during his time in Nirvana, whereas the recording process began as a cathartic experience for Grohl after the death of his close friend and bandmate Kurt Cobain.
The EP consists of four songs; two that ended up on the debut (‘Alone + Easy Target’ and ‘Big Me), an unreleased track (‘Empty Handed’) and a ridiculously amazing cover of Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids in America’. Listening to this EP, it's still hard to believe that what Grohl originally created under the pseudonym of 'Foo Fighters' is just one gu and not the eventual band that came to be.
'Wind Up' - The Colour and the Shape (1997)
The fourth track on the Grammy-award nominated The Colour and the Shape, ‘Wind Up’ has become one of Foo Fighters gnarliest tracks in their discography.
Sitting between the equally heavy ‘My Poor Brain’ and the mellow ‘Up in Arms’, ‘Wind Up’ signifies Grohl’s gripe with the ‘reluctant rock star’ persona; i.e. musicians constantly complaining about being in the industry whilst not taking the time to realise how fortunate they are to be there in the first place.
Set upon an orchestra of distorted guitars, pounding drums and Grohl’s screaming vocals, it's hard to not to notice how fed up Grohl is with musicians that use their platform to complain rather than have fun.
'Disenchanted Lullaby' - One by One (2002)
Taken from their infamously aggressive fourth album One by One, ‘Disenchanted Lullaby’ and the rest of the tracks from the record were very close to never being released. After spending an extortionate amount of money on recording sessions and demos that were eventually thrown away (referred to as the ‘million-dollar demos’), the band nearly reached breaking point due to rising tensions between the members.
After the fallout of a near break-up, ‘Disenchanted Lullaby’ was the result of a long hiatus and reflection on Grohl’s part at the thought of nearly losing everything that he and the band had collectively worked so hard to create.
Following the theme of loneliness and relationships, the track creates a strange, hypnotic atmospheric with a psychedelic, repetitive guitar lick accompanied by echoing vocals.
'The Deepest Blues are Black' - In Your Honor (2005)
Foo Fighters know how to write a hook and look no further than the chorus in ‘The Deepest Blues Are Black’ from the double-album venture In Your Honor. They stick to composing a hefty track that has served them well over the years; the famed ‘Quiet-Loud-Quiet’ verse and chorus structure most famously utilized by the Pixies.
In Your Honor broke ground within the band’s discography, utilizing a mixture of multi-tonal noise rock with a softer acoustic side demonstrated by a double LP. The first disc stuck to the heavy, whilst the second disc featured a blend of distinctively slower ballads with Bossa Nova twinges thrown into the mix.
Obviously, ‘The Deepest Blues are Black’ found its place on the first disc.
'M.I.A.' - There is Nothing Left To Lose (1999)
‘M.I.A.’ explores the need to look after yourself, free of distractions and human touch to escape from reality. As a closer, it leaves you feeling content and somewhat comforted by how we all need to be ‘missing in action’ once in a while.
'Lonely As You' - One By One (2002)
Much more aggressive than ‘Disenchanted Lullaby’, ‘Lonely as You’ is one of Foo Fighters strangest tracks... yet it works so well. It takes the conventions of a rock song and turns them on its head, with a guitar line that almost sounds out of tune and a descending backing vocal accompanied by Grohl’s strange vocal pattern on both the verses and the choruses.
It shouldn’t work, but somehow it just does. One by One was full of dark experimentation that hasn’t really been replicated since by the band; maybe slightly on their latest release but not to the extent of this anomaly in their catalog.
'Still' - In Your Honor (2005)
Said to be written about a suicide that Grohl witnessed as a kid one Saturday morning by his house ("Hear the train come roaring in / Never coming back / Laying quiet in the grass / Everything is still / River stones and broken bones / Scattered on the hill"), ‘Still’ opens the second disc of In Your Honor with a dose of eerie albeit atmospheric calmness that breaks away from the brash and heavy tracks of disc one.
Utilizing a continuous, droning synth, a repetitive guitar melody, blistering piano chords and Grohl’s whispering vocal amalgamates into something that the band had never done before. And luckily for us, they created a whole second disc for it on In Your Honor.
'Darling Nikki' - 'Have it All' B-Side (2003)
Foo Fighters covering Prince? Betcha didn’t know that happened!
Released as a B-Side to the Australian version of their single for ‘Have it All’ in 2003, it found a surprising amount of success on American radio stations. The beauty of this track is how the band kept the sexy, sensual essence of the original song whilst injecting their own heavy, multi-faceted guitar riffs over the chorus. This, with Grohl's screeching vocals, adds a new layer of already hyped up intensity to the track.
When it comes to cover, Foo’s have a natural ability to adapt a song that they love into their own style and aesthetic, making it their own and personifying what a cover is. And their rendition of 'Darling Nikki' is the personification of this.
'Headwires' - There is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)
Tucked deeply beneath the tracklist of There is Nothing Left to Lose lies the spaced-out 'Headwires'. Utilizing strangely vague lyrics and a trippy soundscape, Grohl mumbles anxious lyrics in the verses, contrasting to loud choruses; a theme on the majority of the record.
But it's the repetitive, deep bass line and higher-pitched guitar riff matching it that creates an aura of unease. Both dip in and out from verse to chorus, along with Grohl's vocal style attaining to a feeling of being hooked up by 'headwires'; feeling a sense of longing whilst retaining a weird confusion as to what is happening within the soundscape of the song, and the content of the lyrics.
Once you start to deeply listen to the 'Headwires', it reveals itself to be a pretty complex composition compared to the rest of the record.
'Exhausted' - Foo Fighters (1995)
A melancholic ode to the grunge era of the 90s that Grohl was intertwined with, ‘Exhausted’ carries the weight of heavy distortion and slow-burning emotion that was often touched upon by the echelon of grunge artists surrounding him in his days in Nirvana.
‘Exhausted’ was written during Grohl’s time in Nirvana and was nearly recorded by the band as Cobain was keen to record it but felt uncomfortable with replacing Grohl’s lyrics with his own.
The fuzzy, crackling and excessively slow chord progression along with Grohl’s droning, almost mumbling vocals incites a weird exhaustion in the listener until the pulsating pick-up towards the end where the guitars explode whilst still retaining that distinct grunge melancholy.
'Winnebago' - 'This is a Call' B-Side (1995)
‘Winnebago’, a lost gem of Foo Fighters, was first conceived on a cassette album Grohl recorded under the pseudonym Late! in the early 90s. After the success of Nevermind in 1991 and Foo Fighters in 1995, the album began to make traction, creating a high demand for the cassette.
‘Winnebago’ eventually made its way onto the B-Side for ‘This is a Call’ and is an absolute testament to Grohl’s insane drumming style which implodes towards the end of the track.
Much like ‘Wattershed’ (and a lot of the tracks from Foo Fighters), the lyrics are nonsensical but they do make one heck of a song.
'Hey, Johnny Park!' - The Colour and the Shape (1997)
This track is just such a jam. As soon as that opening drum lick kicks in to introduce the main guitar riff it instantly sets the track off into a frenzy. Utilizing that well known quiet-loud-quiet progression, its one hell of a way to lead off of the song before it on the record (‘Monkey Wrench’).
And for a song’s title to be so mundane as Grohl writing a song for his childhood best friend Johnny Park, who he hadn’t heard from in years so he thought he might call if he named a song after him is bizarre yet amazing.
'Erase/Replace' - Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is most known for the singles ‘The Pretender’ and ‘Long Road to Ruin’. But for the band, it was the album that was envisioned during the recording of In Your Honor in 2005. Instead of having two separate discs of heavy and acoustic songs, they would combine the two into one album.
‘Erase/Replace’ is a perfect example of this. The intro and verse guitar riffs cut through the track like glass, alongside a hard-hitting drum-beat and Grohl’s deeply snarling vocals. Suddenly, the bridge comes into play and it drops into this melodic, Eagles-style harmony that blends seamlessly with the heaviness of the track surrounding it on either side.
'A320' - Godzilla: The Album (1998)
Foo Fighters may regret ever including ‘A320’ on the soundtrack to the 1998 classic Gozilla instead of featuring it on an album (something they have stated multiple times in interviews), but Grohl still cites it as one of his favourite compositions.
Encapsulating the anxieties and claustrophobia surrounding air travel, Grohl balances between the awe and fear of being able to do such a feat. The track dips in and out of gracious melodies, building up to a crescendo-like outro that acts as an explosion of pent-up emotion that is carried throughout the track.
The use of flanger pedals in the outro sounds like planes flying overhead, adding a layer of immersion whilst still maintaining the dramatic/prog rock tone to a track played in the credits of a critically-panned, late 90s disaster movie.
'X-Static' - Foo Fighters (1995)
The only song on Foo Fighters debut to feature another musician other than Grohl (Greg Dulli of The Afghan Wigs), ‘X-Static’ features an intense bass riff, a repetitive, layered guitar line and Grohl’s unmistakable and unique work behind the drumkit.
The song has a strangely comforting dark vibe that borrows heavily from the shoegaze genre, leaving you wanting to stare into space and begin an existential crisis.
Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but we all need to venture into our anxiety-ridden psyches once in a while, and ‘X-Static’ is the perfect song to do so.
'Down in the Park' - The X-Files: Songs in the Key of X (1996)
‘Down in the Park’ is easily Foo Fighters best cover, and one of their best performances to date. They do what they do best when taking another musician’s material, making it entirely their own. Gary Numan’s new wave/electronic/synthpop original with a fear-inducing narrative of androids and machines raping humans to entertain those watching from a nearby club.
Foo Fighters use the foundation of a trippy, electronic aesthetic and layer it with an alternative rock and post-grunge flair that made home on the first soundtrack album for The X-Files, adding to that paranormal 90s aesthetic that Grohl had been obsessed with since the beginning of The X-Files, and extraterrestrial lore since he was a kid.