The Colour And The Shape: 10th Anniversary Special Edition
Ten years after Foo Fighters’ second record, this month’s re-release of ‘The Colour And The Shape’ represents the moment Dave Grohl established himself as a musical talent that didn’t end with being drummer in Nirvana: some feat considering that band were the greatest rock trio of all time.
A collection of songs often brilliant (‘New Way Home’), often beautiful (‘Walking After You’), always catchy – the re-released package comes with six songs absent from the original (the best being a kooky run through of Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’). All these songs are essential to completists only. The 13 songs that precede them, however, contain much wider appeal.
Some backstory: released to the world in May 1995 – with the exception of a brief cameo from Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli on guitar – the Foos’ eponymous first album consisted of Grohl’s sketchy but tuneful demos. Yet it’s worth noting the inclusion of band credits on the sleeve anyway. Pat Smear on guitar (formally of LA punk rockers The Germs, latterly live guitarist with Nirvana), Nate Mendel (bass) and William Goldsmith (drums), both formally of emo originators Sunny Day Real Estate. It was clear Grohl never intended the band to be a one-man stand, and was a nod to what came next. Come 1997, and with the departure of drummer Goldsmith, Foo Fighters reconvened with Pixies/Echo & The Bunnymen producer Gil Norton for a record that would mark the first recording by a now democratic Foos.
See, despite being loosely conceived by Grohl as a concept album documenting a relationship (over the course of recording the singer’s marriage to photographer Jennifer Youngblood would end in divorce), much of the album’s appeal lies in the guitar playing of Smear. Then there’s Norton’s production, providing a sheen that showcases Grohl’s knack with fuzzy guitars and bubblegum-pop melodies.
Unquestionably the outfit’s finest moment (many fans have observed the band lost something with the enigmatic, cross-dressing Smear – replaced briefly by Franz Stahl, then current second guitarist Chris Shiflett), 10 years on, and preceding three subsequent albums of varying quality, ‘The Colour…’ sounds like a record led by a songwriter at his peak. The screeched punk rock of ‘Monkey Wrench’ contains the blueprint for Biffy Clyro and Ash’s current output, while you can’t imagine the disparate likes of The Cribs, My Chemical Romance, and QOTSA are oblivious to the charms of the dynamic ‘Everlong’ (still, even after all these years, their greatest moment).
It’s the record that allowed Grohl to step out of the shadow of his illustrious past. What’s more, it’s a record you should own.