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Foo Fighters
Greatest Hits Stephen Burkett , November 10th, 2009 13:24

Brought into sharp relief by Dave — never David; evidently this dude's into the whole brevity thing — Grohl's recent remarks questioning not only the legitimacy but also the quality and scope of this collection, Greatest Hits is already fighting a rearguard battle. The Foo-heads will not only already own almost everything on here (save the obligatory two newies, of which more later) they'll also be able to join in the chorus of sneering about the notable absences (again, of which more later), leaving this contract-filler seemingly aimed squarely at the casuals who stood at the back during the enormogigs they've played here and there over the last couple of years.

And regardless of what isn't on here, there's still a real wealth of quality that suggests the Foos, despite never really being taken seriously, have a rich arsenal of, yup, classics. Foremost is 'Everlong' — included in both acoustic and full-band form, no doubt in a tracklist-filling fit of overkill, but a belter nonetheless. 'My Hero' still sounds fresh despite being over a decade old, and the caustic 'Monkeywrench', even after being ritually massacred through over-exposure since its emergence, has lost none of its bite.

Dipping further back, the brilliant parade of nonsense that is 'This Is A Call' perfectly straddles the boundary between gut-punch heavy and cheekily melodic; while 'Big Me' shows Grohl has been churning out quality pop rock since day one. Moreover, due in part to their self-titled record and The Colour And The Shape being unfairly forgotten (in terms of wider mainstream approval) in the wake of the colossal There Is Nothing Left To Lose, it's likely that these older songs won't have been aired much over the past few years. If that's the case — dig 'em out; but don't buy this record.

'All My Life', 'The Pretender' and 'Best Of You' are all passable but hugely, hugely overplayed and unadventurous. 'Breakout' adds a touch of late-period violence to counteract the neutered 'Times Like These', and 'Long Road To Ruin' is the sound of a band cruising with the minimum of effort. 'Skin And Bones', a B-side curio from the 'In Your Honor' days is tender but slightly lightweight; 'Wheels' is pleasing and blessed with a radio-friendly melody hearkening back to the days when that wasn't a shrouded insult, and 'Word Forward' an angry thrash that feels somewhat impotent and directionless in its rage. Crucially, neither of the latter two songs merit much attention, and you can really see where Grohl's frustrations are coming from.

But the greatest songs the Foos ever wrote are only partially represented. It's not a case of Old Vs New, because 'Stacked Actors', 'Resolve' and 'Burn Away' could all conceivably have been included from the second half of their career. But really, 'I'll Stick Around', 'Walking After You', 'Hey, Johnny Park!', 'February Stars' and 'Exhausted' are all far, far more powerful confirmations of the band's quality. And the Foos are a band of inherent quality; they've proved over a course of years that Grohl is a brilliant frontman who can write as fine big rock songs as anyone else even remotely near the mainstream. The only problem is that these songs are not nearly their greatest hits.