There Is Nothing Left to Lose

There Is Nothing Left to Lose

After the emotionally charged anthems and notable underground pedigree of 1997’s The Colour and the Shape, Foo Fighters’ third album proved more grounded in classic American rock than in the subcultures of punk, grunge, or emo. With the departure of guitarist Pat Smear (for now) and the promotion of touring drummer Taylor Hawkins to full-time member since the last record, Dave Grohl took up guitar duties against the road-hardened rhythm section of Hawkins and bassist Nate Mendel. Just as vital as that rejiggered lineup was the no-frills setting. After relocating from an unhappy stint in Hollywood, Grohl purchased a house not far from his former high school in Alexandria, Virginia, and christened the newfound basement studio 606—later to beget an LA version called 606 West and also inspire the 2022 horror flick Studio 666. Working with co-producer Adam Kasper, the core trio set about shaping the album under much mellower circumstances than the last time around. The results followed suit, smoothing out many of the previous album’s diamond-sharp edges. That’s most apparent in the platinum-selling hit “Learn to Fly,” an arena-sized power ballad that hints at what Grohl might have picked up from Tom Petty in his brief fill-in spot drumming for The Heartbreakers. Complete with ringing hooks and an accessible message, the song became a resounding calling card for the band’s radio-friendly potential. Other tracks follow suit, with “Live-In Skin” bringing heartfelt heft to its straight-down-the-middle rock, and “Next Year” channeling AM-radio gold with its optimistic refrain “I’ll be comin’ home next year.” Even the more experimental choices aren’t exactly abrasive, from the phaser motif in “Breakout” and talk-box hook in “Generator” to the bleary effects rippling through “Aurora” and “Headwires.” By stark contrast, the red-herring opener “Stacked Actors” pairs jazzy verses with stoner-rock bluster while Grohl lashes out at Hollywood’s well-documented emptiness. Other songs pick up that thread later, with “Ain’t It the Life” again puncturing actors’ vacant facades before “M.I.A.” goes as far as to call them “mannequins drunk in their hollow town.” The latter ends the record on a triumphant note, with Grohl emboldened by his choice to ditch that lifestyle. Released at the very close of the decade that first made Grohl famous, There Is Nothing Left to Lose very much broadened Foo Fighters’ appeal, even earning them a Grammy for Best Rock Album. But more than anything, it established Grohl’s staying power far beyond the lingering shadow of Nirvana.

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