Foo Fighters summarize 25 years with the Friday (Oct. 28) release of the band’s second compilation album in The Essential Foo Fighters, a 21 song, hour and 25 minute record that reads much like a tour setlist.
Sadly, in many respects, it also puts a close on drummer Taylor Hawkins tenure with the band as he died earlier this year from a drug overdose. Singer and band founder Dave Grohl held two tribute concerts to Hawkins in September, one in London the other in Los Angeles, where icons from the world of rock offered their respects including Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush who performed Rush songs together for the first time since Neil Peart died in January 2020. (Yes, they did take the stage with Primus last summer but, well, it just wasn’t them playing Rush.)
At any rate, and likely way more information than necessary for a compilation album review, Hawkins helped define Foo Fighters. In many respects he was a core to the band, a best friend to Grohl and quite the drummer. Shedding a tear over a musician’s death may sound silly to some as I can count the number on one hand those who’ve broken the tear duct dam. Neil Peart of course. Tom Petty during an emotional tribute by, of all bands, Coldplay in a concert the day after his passing. When I read the cocktail of drugs found in Hawkins system, that got to me.
I suspect The Essential Foo Fighters will sell well. Their Greatest Hits album of 2009 has as many certifications as their best-selling platinum albums. Arguably, many simply want the singles and/or what they hear on radio but I think if we’re honest, while Foo Fighters have a number of stellar songs on every album those albums also have a few, how should we say, less than listenable tracks. Maybe a more positive spin would say, those songs that require a significant investment in time.
Mathematically, the 20 song long The Essential Foo Fighters (the 21st and final song an acoustic repeat) takes two songs from each of the 10 studio albums. But the album doesn’t follow the math. Upon first listen several glaring admissions, but for the casual fan The Essential Foo Fighters offers an updated career encapsulation which includes songs from the previous four, strike that, three studio albums. Seriously, how do you leave out “Congregation” off Sonic Highways? In fact, nothing off Sonic Highways. Weird.
I like the inclusion of “Walk” the final track off Wasting Light but it begs to be followed by “Run” probably the best song off 2017’s Concrete & Gold. Instead, the lumbering “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” gets the pick. Hawkins sang lead on “A Cold Day in the Sun” off the band’s fifth studio album In Your Honor a wise addition here.
The rest of The Essential Foo Fighters features all the usual suspects including “Everlong” both studio and the acoustic version (I think one is enough), “The Pretender,” “Monkey Wrench,” “My Hero” and their best and the one that broke Grohl down on stage during the tribute shows “Times Like These.” A few excellent outliers that help round out this compilation record include “Making A Fire” and “Rope” both from the last ten years of the band’s career.
Thirteen of the songs on The Essential Foo Fighters also appear on the 16-song Greatest Hits album so if you have one you have much of the other. But know that you get six from three of the last four releases – three off 2021s Medicine at Midnight, two off 2011’s Wasting Light and the lone cut taken from Concrete & Gold.
Will be interesting to see where Grohl takes Foo Fighters from here.
The Essential Foo Fighters Song List:
- Making a Fire
- Times Like These
- Monkey Wrench
- My Hero
- Cold Day in the Sun
- Big Me
- Long Road to Ruin
- Shame Shame
- Best of You
- All My Life
- The Pretender
- This Is a Call
- Waiting on a War
- Learn to Fly
- The Sky Is a Neighborhood
- These Days
- Everlong (Acoustic)