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Foo Fighters – Skin And Bones

January 15, 2007

I don’t want to say I wouldn’t have liked to have seen any of the Foo Fighters accoustic concerts. It would have been fun, just not THAT fun. I have wanted to see them in concert for a really long time, so I probably should have just taken what I could get, but they are a band that has truly evolved into an arena rock act, so the ideal way to see them would be in a big venue where they will really rock out electrically. So I decided to turn down picking up the tickets when they were available just because money was an issue and I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to see them in an accoustic setting. After buying Skin And Bones (the CD version, not the DVD version) and listening to it at length, as a long time Foo Fighters fan, I realize that I probably didn’t make that big of a mistake. While they are a great live act, an accoustic tour was really only a good idea for mindless fans not so concerned with substance over style. Of course, I never attended one of these shows, so maybe the connection with the audience was greater than I am interpreting, but as a live disk this feels overblown and unnecessary. While it is a well played show, it doesn’t reveal anything different than the original recordings do about their songs, and even fans would be hard pressed to call this essential or even that special.

I think the idea here was to strip down the bands studio sound as much as possible, hence the name Skin And Bones. However, the opposite was clearly done, an intimate down home softness being added to each song. The tour was technically a promotion type thing for the second disk of the bands 2005 hit album In Your Honor. Fans know that this ten song long disk is the most stripped down you will ever hear the band, the songs already very intimate. Listening to them almost feels like sitting in a room with Dave Grohl strumming away non-intrusively in the corner, sometimes letting other well placed instruments into the fray. This live album actually makes the attempt to dress up all of these low-key gems into something they are not. In that way, the opening Razor represents just about everything this album does and does not do. It does attempt to put a new edge on the music, but it does not come anywhere close to being effective even though the show is well done. Razor was the perfect way to end In Your Honor, and I mean perfect. In Your Honor isn’t even close to the bands best album, but what a clincher. In the original version, Razor speeds up at the end and then fades out gently, but on this live version, an arsenal of other instruments are added to sort of do the opposite, that is, unleash the power of the live album as opposed to end it, and the attempt is flubbed pretty badly. Putting Razor upfront sounds like it should be a good idea, but it’s just not. All the other songs from In Your Honor, save Friend of a Friend which is a faithful solo take, are done in the same sort of way and are made to be something they are not, and consequently the intimacy is gone.

But that isn’t the only thing that is done wrong here. Dave Grohl takes to the stage very dramatically and self importantly, which is exactly the thing he shouldn’t have done. If anyone has ever heard Alice In Chains Unplugged, some songs here bear a strikingly simmilar fate to the likes of Sludge Factory and Angry Chair, that is, they should never even have been considered to be played accoustically. Big Me was meant to be playful and electric, and Best Of You is simply a bad song to play quietly. But of course, Grohl tries it and fails, screaming out at a decible acceptable for regular concerts but very inappropriate for a small quiet venue. I literally couldn’t listen without being pained. Fortunately, My Hero is at least given a decent run in some parts, especially the beginning, but it’s a song you wouldn’t really want to hear in this setting anyway.

I don’t want to make it seem like this album does nothing right though. There are a few redeeming qualities. The rendition of Marigold is especially touching. For those of you who don’t know, Marigold was the only song that Nirvana ever did that was written by Dave Grohl, and the original version was very reserved and shy. The version here is more open, complex, and direct, which may be good or bad. It features Nirvana backup guitarist and former Foo Fighter Pat Smear too, which is a great little surprise. The transition into My Hero would be worth the take alone it’s just so fantastic. A few other songs are done well too, especially Times Like These, a song overdue for a retooling after One By One’s mediocre production. Other keepers include February Stars, a great version of Next Year, and the always chilling closer Everlong. But even Everlong is unnecessary, because there is already a solo accoustic version of the song that is much better widely available. Another good one is the b-side Skin And Bones that gives the CD it’s name, a quaint little song that is played comfortably quiet and warmly, a feeling that is not really present anywhere else here.

It’s just really not that special of a live album. I feel bad comparing this to a Nirvana, a band which Dave Grohl has understandably tried to detatch himself from, but Nirvana Unplugged did the same kind of thing flawlessly. Fans will have already heard that and will make the connection, and this is destroyed in comparrison. After listening to this album, the original versions will seem extremely comforting, and that’s really not a good sign. They tried and they tried hard, I’ll give them that. And they actually played well too. I love the Foo Fighters, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that they tried to get the complete wrong angle on this than they should have. Fans will deffinitely want this in some way, but not necessarily the CD version. Even huge fans probably wouldn’t be missing too much and would be better off just getting the DVD and forgetting the CD, because it’s not something that people will really care to listen to that much.

lawlz, liek, dude, we just so gots your moneys!

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One comment

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