I’m at a point in my life where I’ve seen plenty of musical figures pass away, artists I’ve grown up with. In the last few years some colossal figures have died, but for some reason the death of Taylor Hawkins has hung in my thoughts more than any others have recently. I don’t know if it’s because they were such a huge band during my formative teenage years or if it’s because I’m due to see see them on their upcoming UK tour but something of the tragedy of Hawkins untimely death has stuck with me.
The Foo Fighters are possibly one of the biggest bands on the planet at the moment, and whilst the Foos are very much Dave Grohl and Dave Grohl is the Foos – they are also very very much Taylor Hawkins, for a band with a shifting line up over the years he’s massively ingrained and often it’s surprising to remember he didn’t join until after the second album was recorded.
The first two albums are phenomenal, the second “The Colour and the Shape” arguably the peak of their back catalogue. Having embarked on a recent relisten of the whole discography in the wake of Taylor’s death I do wonder if there arem’t some very strong arguments to be made for some of the other releases.
In the wake of The Colour and the Shape the 1999 release of “There’s nothing left to lose” was much anticipated, personally so because it was the first album to be released when I was already a big fan and not discovering the band. Looking back at the album it’s not The colour and the shape, and possibly (probably?) it’s a lesser album, I certainly remember feeling that slightly at the time but it was an album I loved, I listened to over and over and in that way you seem to have time to in your formative years it’s an album I became intimately familiar with. It is simply fantastic, it’s heavy in parts and really rocks out- kicking off with the thumping Stacked Actors but overall I often feel there’s a more general mellow/mainstreamness to the album as a whole than the previous two albums – especially the more raw first album Foo Fighters.
It sets the blueprint very much for the Foo’s as they’ll go on, the well loved loud / quiet alternation pitching Grohl’s singing alongside his more punk screaming, the successful mixing of the punk and rock backgrounds pushing towards a more mainstream vibe at points. It’s no surprise that this is the album that saw the backbone of the current line up after various line up changes seeing 3 of the members ever present until Hawkins untimely death.
Hawkins is a powerhouse of a drummer, a phenomenon live and a talented all round musician. The previously mentioned Stacked Actors powers along on the back of that muscular drumming and it can be no mean feat to record an album when you know that the front man of the group is widely hailed as one of the best drummers of his or any generation. From that opener, for me the track listing builds nicely to a peak back to back of Generator (with it’s Peter Frampton Talkbox intro) and Aurora with hit singles Breakout and Learn to fly nestled nicely in that opening half.
Overall it is quintessential Foo Fighters, as put by one critic* “it is the first Foo Fighters album that sounds like the work of a unified, muscular band” and that’s a verdict that’s hard to disagree with. Foo Fighters feels raw, The Colour and the shape is a one off historic album that is Dave Grohl having found his feet but if you want to hear the Foo Fighter’s at their most “Foo Fighter’s” – including Taylor Hawkins – then this is the album to listen to.
RIP Taylor Hawkins
*Stephen Thomas Erlwein from AllMusic