Monday, May 12, 2008

Collectibles #22: Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Tour Edition (2008)

This is the Japanese version of Foo Fighters' Grammy-winning album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. It is their sixth studio album, and their most critically-acclaimed since their second album, The Colour And The Shape.

Released in September last year, the album has spawned two hit singles already and also won two Grammy Awards this year, for Best Rock Album and Best Hard Rock Performance. Lead single The Pretender was a massive hit, spending 18 weeks at the top of the Billboard Modern Rock charts, setting a record in the process.

Follow up single, Long Road To Ruin, also peaked at number one on the same chart, spending seven weeks there. The third single is Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running), but it has never been properly released as a CD single. There is another single, Let It Die, being released simultaneously to radio.

It took me a while to warm up to this album because at first listen, there were plenty of "ballad-y" songs. I tend to like my Foos songs loud and hard. But in the build-up to the concert last month, I began to listen to the album more thoroughly and uncovered a lot of gems in the process.

My favourite Foos album is The Colour And The Shape, and for ESPG, they reunited with Gil Norton, the same guy who produced TCATS. What we have now is an album that is as good as the former, and it thoroughly deserved its Album of the Year Grammy nomination.

First track The Pretender is one of the best album openers in recent history, and it's not hard to see why it's such a big smash. Like many of the songs on the album, it opens slowly and softly before building up and exploding into a chorus of grandiose sound. When performed live, they got everyone in the audience singing along to the chorus. It's amazing.

Let It Die starts off solemnly and takes a while to get there, but the payoff is rewarding. Some might think that Dave goes the typical route of screaming his head off unnecessarily but I think it's justified. It's a good song to open the concert, which they did.

Erase Replace has been described by one magazine as: "(Dave) writes guitar riffs like he plays the drums", and I can see why, but it's not a bad thing. Being a drummer, I like syncopation and interesting drum rhythms And while it's true that the guitar riffs sound more like drum parts, it also gives the song more bite and punch. I also like the middle section of the song, where you can hear the strings providing the accent in tandem with the drum beat.

Long Road To Ruin is the de facto pop song of the album, and it holds up well. I think it's even better than Learn To Fly, the other pop song from the Foos catalogue. I like the fact that Chris has a guitar solo in there, and it's a nice solo. They said that it's a fun song to play on tour, and I agree. I would love to play this song too. The video for this song is hilarious too.

Come Alive is a little similar to Let It Die in terms of song structure and set up, and it's equally good. This is one of the more epic songs, and it's a pity they didn't perform this on tour. They mentioned that this album represents a growth in terms of song arrangement, and that they couldn't have recorded this album 5 years ago because they weren't mature enough, and I think it's true. They definitely couldn't have done this song back then.

Stranger Things Have Happened is one of my favourite songs off the album right now. I used to think it was boring because it was bare (just 2 guitars) and relatively slow. One magazine also described it being "not strange enough", and that it should add weird sounds like fuzz guitars to make it more strange sounding. That completely misses the point about the song. It does not need strange sounds just because the title mentions that stranger things have happened, and what you get is 2 very ordinary sounding guitars and a vocal. To me, it's a damn beautiful song. Beautifully played and sung.

Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running) is also one of my faves and I like it because of the high energy drums. It's quite pop-sounding too, and I suppose it's on purpose, because the song title digs those emo rock bands, who are really more pop than rock. It's a very fun song to play and it's a pity they're not shooting a video for this song.

Summer's End is a country like song that I skip quite a lot. It's one of the weaker tracks on the album.

Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners is an instrumental featuring Dave and Australian guitarist Kaki King. King joined the Foos on the Australian leg of their tour and performed this song live on stage with them.

The backstory of this song is that there was a mining accident in Beaconsfield, Australia, and when rescuers reached these two miners, they asked them what they would like to have while they were being rescued. They asked for an iPod containing Foo Fighters songs as sustenance. When this story broke to Dave, he was very touched by it and promised to write them a song and put it on their next album, and so here it is.

It's the only instrumental track in the album. In fact, it's the only instrumental track in all their six albums. And it's good. I've never considered Dave as much of a guitar player, but he showed that he has the chops on this track.

But, Honestly starts off like a typical college band song, with the strumming of the guitar accompanied by a vocal. It does not start off very impressively but the last third of the song, where the band comes in, is superb. I love the guitar riff. I was surprised they performed this at their concert because it wasn't an obvious choice, but I'm glad they did. It's great that they did non-single songs for the concert. Makes me appreciate them much more.

Home is a real departure for the Foos, even though they have shown their softer side on the second disc of their In Your Honor album, and also their acoustic live release, Skin & Bones. Home features Dave playing the piano, a first for him. The piano is the star of the song, and Dave proves to be adept at the task.

Some people have described the track as being soppy and mushy, but I think it's just sweet and tender. Dave does have an amazing voice, in that he can go from screaming in one track to becoming all sensitive and charming in another. The title of the album is taken from a line in this song, and I think it's a beautiful line. It's really graceful. A great album closer.

Of course, this being the Japanese version, there are always bonus tracks, and on this version we have Once & For All (Demo) and Seda. I haven't listened to them much yet, but I think they're so-so. That's why they're bonus tracks, and not in the main album listing.

In conjunction with their tour, the Foos have re-released ths album as a Tour Edition, with a bonus DVD. It contains five live performances from their Hyde Park concert. If you don't already own the full concert DVD, this is a great bonus. But if you already do, like me, then it's somewhat of a disappointment. I was rather hoping that they would include music videos of The Pretender and Long Road To Ruin, and behind-the-scenes or studio footage as well. That would have been a great package.

Nevertheless, it's still a great package. Just the album alone is worth the money. But if you're a typical kiasu Singaporean and want to get your money absolutely worth, get this Japanese Tour Edition, with the two bonus audio tracks and live DVD.



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