Welcome to our new feature Total Ranker, where we rank an artist’s catalogue of albums from worst to best, using a series of scientific principles such as “critical thought”, “opinion” and “taste”. No b-sides albums, no live albums, no EPs-that-totally-count. Just albums. Ranked from worst to best.
You may agree, you may disagree, you may not care. What’s important is that you let everyone know how we got #4 and #7 in the wrong order in our comments section, and how Tone Deaf don’t know anything blah blah rah rah triple j used to be better when I was younger. Enjoy!
Sonic Highways (2014)
As the documentary that carried this album shows, the songs were bashed out quickly in different cities around America without much thought. As a soundtrack to an interesting film about the history of American musical scenes, it is fine, but as a stand-alone album, it falls short. You can hear how haphazard, and — frankly — how lazy, some of these songs are, and the footage which finds Grohl stringing together snippets of uninspiring conversations to sing over ho-hum riffs only solidifies this feeling.
Wasting Light (2011)
An unimaginative trawl through riff heavy ROCK, where ROCK is utilised to mask the lack of melody, and Butch Vig is employed in order to affix ‘Nevermind’ to any press about the record. This — as with most records released by rock bands past their prime — was marketed as a return to form, but unless that form was formless, it isn’t at all.
One by One (2002)
The band’s first career slip was a direct reaction to the sheen of their previous album, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, and sounded like an album hampered by an overriding mission statement to Rock Out More. ‘Times Like These’ owed a heavy (but legally-distinct) debt to ‘Heroes’ by Bowie, while lead single ‘All My Life’ stuttered on the same riff for four-and-a-half minutes without ever pulling out onto the freeway. Sonically speaking, it’s the most Pro-Tools-sounding album in their catalogue, and the artwork sucks, too. Then again, so do the covers to ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Pinkerton’.
In Your Honor (2005)
The obligatory double album. The title track is epic in a way the band hadn’t been since ‘Everlong’, and the breadth of tracks (mostly on disc two) allowed Grohl to indulge the softer and weirder side of his songwriting, with quite pleasing results. Norah Jones and John Paul Jones add the sense of grace that is referenced in their follow-up album, and Taylor Hawkins even got his debut solo outing on the rollicking, very Tom Petty sounding ‘Cold Day In The Sun’.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)
A great late-era Fooeys record, with ‘Long Run To Ruin’ possessing one of the greatest Foo clips to date, and perhaps their finest pre-chorus too. ‘Cheer Up Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)’ is a bright pop blast, and an easy shot at emo culture, and the blend of different styles on this album works to strengthen it, rather than to dilute. Grohl referenced The Zombies 1968 landmark ‘Odessey and Oracle’ when making this record, and while that’s a stretch, you can kinda hear it too.
Foo Fighters (1995)
Basically a solo album, with one stray guitar part being played by Afghan Whigs guitarist Greg Dulli, after Grohl handed him an instrument during one session. Written in the wake of Cobain’s death, and purposely kept light and devoid of anything that could be read into (although millions claim ‘I’ll Stick Around’ is about Courtney Love), this is a punchy, breezy collection of radio rock – debut single ‘Big Me’, with its undeniable melody, silly clip, and nonsense lyrics was the perfect pallet cleanser after grunge’s dark end.
The Colour and the Shape (1997)
Once you remove ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘My Hero,’ and ‘Everlong’ from the record, this is a very odd album. It actually plays a lot like a rarities and B-sides collection, with the Beatlesque power pop of ‘Up In Arms’, the slinky falsetto verses of ‘My Poor Brain’, and that impossible scream in the ‘Enough Space’ chorus. The band stretched out with a few huge ’70s-FM ballads: ‘February Stars’, and ‘Walking After You’, while Alex Lloyd ripped the chorus from big closer ‘New Way Home’ wholesale for his own ‘My Way Home’. Of course ‘Everlong’ is routinely regarded as one of the greatest songs ever – it’s also the best to air-drum to, although the hi-hat 16ths are hard even when manning an imaginary kit.
There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)
The big-hitter. Grohl said that before writing this album his label said they need 11 hit singles from it. This may have been an over-exaggeration, but Grohl pretty much delivers, without toning down their rock roots. ‘Stacked Actors’ opens the album with one of the best and heaviest riffs the band have unleashed (in Drop A tuning, from memory), and the singles follow quickly: ‘Breakout’, ‘Next Year’, ‘Generator’, and ‘Learn To Fly’ all became radio staples, ‘Aurora’ is breezy and lovely, ‘Gimme Stitches’ has an undeniable riff which should have been written in 1972, and the entire record sounds like a greatest hits collection. The band would apparently have daily BBQs after each day’s session, and you can hear the relaxed vibes on the record.