The Colour and The Shape
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2007, Volume 14, #9
Written by John Metzger
Wed September 12, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Thereís nothing quite like the sound of a band that is in the midst of coming into its own, and Foo Fightersí The Colour and The Shape is a prime example of how exhilarating the experience can be. The groupís self-titled debut, which had been birthed in the aftermath of Kurt Cobainís death, essentially was a solo exercise for former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. The collection had been winnowed down from an extensive stash of songs that he had been writing and saving for years, and he sang and performed nearly every note on the endeavor. To take the project on the road, however, he tapped guitarist Pat Smear, a holdover from the final incarnation of Nirvana, as well as Sunny Day Real Estateís rhythm section (bass player Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith) for support. Although Goldsmith quickly departed once the sessions for The Colour and The Shape were underway, the remaining trio defied the odds and developed genuine chemistry.
Mendel humbly sketches the story of Foo Fightersí evolution in the liner notes to the recently expanded edition of The Colour and The Shape, but his words merely reiterate the feelings and moods that can be heard within the music. Under the guidance of Pixiesí producer Gil Norton, Foo Fighters found its own identity. At its core, the groupís method of enveloping its shimmering, dulcet tones within a juxtaposition of metallic thunder and quiet restraint mirrored the approach to which Grohl had become accustomed in Nirvana. The fringes, however, were decorated with ideas that had been harvested from an array of other locales, though all of them were dispensed in service of the melodies.
Nevertheless, throughout The Colour and The Shape, Foo Fighters walked a very fine line. Because its output was considerably less abrasive, and because it came in the wake of Nirvanaís surprising success, the groupís pursuits were inherently more accessible than the songs of Grohlís former band. Many acts have tried a similar approach and failed. Foo Fighters, too, has struggled, at times, to make this formula work. The Colour and The Shape is triumphant, at least in part, because the group was so enthusiastic about performing its material. Nothing about the effortís contents ó be it the aggressive, thrashing fury of Monkey Wrench; the turbulent, rhythmic drive of My Hero; or the skipping, acoustic swing of See You ó sounds forced, and the music provided a safe haven for Grohl and his pals to unleash their emotions.
The other reason that The Colour and The Shape has endured is that the set is lyrically cohesive, and it subsequently provides the context both for the angst that the group conjures via its torrents of churning guitars as well as for the melancholy ambience that settles upon the effortís softer passages. "Iíve never been so scared," Grohl sings on opening cut Doll. On the final track New Way Home, he escapes his fears by turning the lines "Iím not scared/I felt like this on my way home/Iím not scared/I pass boats and the Kingdome" into a mantra from which he draws strength. In between, relationships break down while new love rises, and although the material is an autobiographical depiction of Grohlís love life, itís impossible to escape the notion that it also is a reflection of his transition from Nirvana to Foo Fighters.
Over the course of the past decade, Foo Fighters has used The Colour and The Shape as its guidebook, and with each passing outing, it has torn apart and reassembled the albumís components. Most recently, it split its formula in two as a means of creating the sprawling, double-disc effort In Your Honor. The first portion of the set was devoted to the crash-and-burn, arena-ready aesthetics of the bandís approach, while its more Beatle-esque inclinations filtered through the collectionís latter half. Considering that Foo Fighters seemed to be searching for something that remained out of reach, itís telling that it has reunited with Norton to concoct its forthcoming endeavor Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. After all, it was under his watch that the groupís ideas first were corralled until they obtained a sharpened focus. Foo Fighters undoubtedly is hoping that he can help the outfit through its recent slate of growing pains.
Six previously released b-sides have been affixed to the conclusion of The Colour and The Shape to form its new, expanded incarnation. None of them further illuminate the album, though they all are, at the very least, fun-filled diversions. The quartet of cover tunes ó Killing Jokeís Requiem, Princeís Drive Me Wild, Gary Numanís Down in the Park, and Gerry Raffertyís Baker Street ó are more than just mere goofs. Although they may have been odd choices to tackle, Foo Fighters delivers them playfully and makes the songs its own. The final two cuts were penned by the band, and they are strong enough to have been included on the original album. The shimmering Dear Lover isnít quite as hushed as February Stars, but it does fall into a similar vein. By contrast, the squealing guitars and shrieking vocals that fill what ought to have been The Colour and The Shapeís title track are as tormented as anything Foo Fighters ever has concocted. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box