"This album was made in Virginia," announces Foo Fighters' third CD, "There Is Nothing Left to Lose" (Roswell/RCA), and that's not simply a logistical statement. A decade ago, chief Fighter Dave Grohl left the Washington area to join Nirvana, a band that was about to become the focus of a musical (and music industry) upheaval. After Kurt Cobain's death, Grohl founded the Foo Fighters and moved to Los Angeles, where according to some accounts he was ensnared by the glamorous life. "It was a hollow place," the musician recently told Rolling Stone. That comment is echoed by several songs on the new album that seem to be about reclaiming his former existence. "I don't want to look like that," he sings in "Breakout," while "Learn to Fly" seeks "a new revolution" and "Next Year" dreams of "coming home."
Of course, Grohl will never again be the kid he was when he moved to Seattle. Then he was known only as the drummer for the explosive D.C. punk band Scream; now he's the Foo Fighters' singer, songwriter and principal player. In fact, he's been the only constant in the band's lineup, which has lost a drummer and two guitarists during its five-year run. "There Is Nothing Left to Lose" was recorded as a trio, although a new guitarist, Chris Shiflett, has joined for the current tour.
Nirvana changed Grohl's style as well as his life, and at times the Foo Fighters still sound like all those other bands that were inspired by Nirvana's flex-and-release arrangements. The Fighters' approach is more traditionally melodic than Cobain's, however, and the new album shows the continuing influence of the Beatles. Such songs as "Stacked Actors" and "Headwires" howl, but "Ain't It the Life" lilts like a post-grunge "Across the Universe." This combination doesn't exactly qualify as a new revolution, but it demonstrates that there's still some life in the old one.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8154.)
Live: 'The Distance to Here'
Live released its first album in 1991, the year of Nirvana's "Nevermind," and both bands had a taste for yearning verses and surging choruses. While Grohl traveled to Grungeville and Tinseltown and then back home, Live kept its roots in York, Pa., but trained its gaze toward the cosmos. The conceptual model for the quartet's new "The Distance to Here" might well be the early-'70s Who: grand, swelling hard rock in service of a spiritual quest. On the opening "The Dolphin's Cry," singer-songwriter Edward Kowalczyk finds himself in "a swoon of peace." In "They Stood Up for Love," he extols the anti-Vietnam protesters who "put the flower in the barrel of that gun," and "Sun" advises listeners to "Let the world be the world/ Let the dream unfurl."
Live's dream is a contemporary sound that, though still indebted to R.E.M. and U2, packs the power of such pioneering metallists as Led Zeppelin. Kowalczyk regularly borrows Robert Plant's scream, and the band even attempts to get earthy with a song whose title conflates two Hendrix tunes: "Voodoo Lady." That doesn't work, since a line such as "classy holy hooker" won't fit Kowalczyk's mouth quite right, but as long as this transcendental-metal band restricts its carnality to the groove, it just might find what it's looking for.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8155.)
CAPTION: The shadow of Nirvana: Foo Fighters Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel and Taylor Hawkins, above; and Patrick Dahlheimer, Edward Kowalczyk, Chad Gracey and Chad Taylor of Live.