The Foo Fighters present two distinct sides of their musical personalities on “In Your Honor,” which offers one disc each of electric and acoustic songs. The 20-track project is due June 14 via RCA; first single “Best of You” is No. 5 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart in just three weeks.
“Can you hear me? / Hear me screaming?,” asks frontman Dave Grohl at the outset of the rock disc’s first tune, “In Your Honor,” during which Rush-style guitar work eventually gives way to the speed-metal riffage of Grohl’s Probot side project.
The disc is highlighted by “Free Me,” the riff of which sounds like a metal-leaning version of “Theme From Peter Gunn.” It’s one of the few tracks that recall the intense, harder-rocking material that dominated the 1995 self-titled Foo Fighters debut.
Grohl’s lyrics seem obsessed with moving on from unknown problems; “there’s no way back from here / but I don’t care,” he says during “No Way Back,” while in “The Last Song,” he promises, “this is the last song I will dedicate to you / made my peace and now I’m through.”
Although an oft-circulated acoustic version of the 1997 hit “Everlong” proved the Foos were capable of toning down the volume, the softer second disc of “In Your Honor” may still surprise fans on its first few listens. Throughout, the band nods to acoustic-tinged rock forefathers like Pink Floyd, the Eagles and Led Zeppelin, even drafting the latter band’s John Paul Jones to play piano on “Miracle” and mandolin on “Another Round.”
“What If I Do” imagines the Foos as the house band at a country bar, sending patrons home after a long night with a breezy, rainy day number. A handful of tracks feature little or no drumming, although Grohl reclaims his spot behind the kit for the Replacements homage “Cold Day in the Sun,” sung by drummer Taylor Hawkins.
Much has already been made of the Norah Jones collaboration “Virginia Moon,” which could easily have made the cut for one of her own albums. With its jazzy tempo and come-hither lyrics (“In the morning when we’re through / and tomorrow rescues you / I will say goodnight”), the cut could wind up being the Foo Fighters’ very own “The Girl From Ipanema” — or an affront to devotees of the band’s louder music.
Other guests on the acoustic disc include Petra Haden (violin on “Miracle), Queens Of The Stone Age leader Josh Homme (guitar on closer “Razor”), the Wallflowers’ Rami Jaffee (keyboards on six tracks) and photographer Danny Clinch (harmonica on “Another Round”).
The Foo Fighters’ only North American dates at present are three radio station-sponsored festivals (Saturday (May 14) in Baltimore, May 21 in Irvine, Calif., and June 10 in San Francisco). A more extensive tour is on tap for this summer.
Here is the track list for “In Your Honor”:
“In Your Honor”
“No Way Back”
“Best of You”
“The Last Song”
“The Deepest Blues Are Black”
“End Over End”
“What If I Do”
“Friend of a Friend”
“Over N’ Out”
“On the Mend”
“Cold Day in the Sun”