4 stars out of 4. Immortal album and one of the finest of the 90’s.
This is the best album by the Foos bar-none. If there is ever a single reason for Dave Grohl’s continued work in music post-Nirvana this would be it. The reason why this record works? Brace yourself cause it’s pretty simple.
This record is simply three guys jamming together in a Virginia basement. The writing is top notch and there is no filler whatsoever unlike every other Foo record which is almost guaranteed to have one filler track somewhere. It just grooves along and has a vibe unlike any of their other records.
They threw out the heavy production and the new lineup of guitarist/singer-bassist-drummer put their heads to lock into a single groove. That’s all this record is. A declaration that they want this band to work and that they don’t give a damn how they do it. And they threw out all the company execs and made the thing themselves. The addition of Taylor Hawkins gives the sound a freshness not heard before and it locks into a vibe that never dies.
From the initial warning blare of “Stacked Actors” to the tired yet defiant close of “M.I.A.”, TINLTL never lets up it’s unbelievably strong lineup of tunes. Start to finish both musically and lyrically this record is something to rock out to and something to curl up with as the sun sets on yet another day. Their third effort has all the strengths of their two previous albums. All of the reckless energy and inspiration of the debut is here, along with the quality production and fleshing out of the sound that was on the follow-up. Sure, they might have added more members and changed the sound again after this record, but the Foo Fighters would never be as honest and direct as this.
TINLTL is melodic. In fact, Dave himself has later said that it is entirely based on melody. Maybe this is why it plays so well. It is one of those very admittedly few records that can be played at almost anytime in life. Once you crack it out again, it’s really hard to believe how good this thing is. In addition to the rockers and the massive singles (in ’99 you heard these almost daily.) there are some really great slower songs that seem to be nothing but melody. The referential “Ain’t it the Life” and the gorgeous “Aurora” reveal this softer side of the band and reiterate how much heart is behind this stripped down record.
It’s this stripped down quality that I like most about TINLTL. Not stripped down technically, but a stripping away of unnecessary elements and additions in order to just get back to the music itself. This stuff just flows out of that basement and through your speakers as if you were standing outside the windows in that summer when the band was recording. It’s effortless.
“It was all about just settling into the next phase of your life, that place where you can sit back and relax because there had been so much crazy shit in the past three years. At that point it was me,Taylor and Nate and we were best friends. It was one of the most relaxing times of my whole life. All we did was eat chilli, drink beer and whiskey and record whenever we felt like it. When I listen to that record it totally brings me back to that basement. I remember how it smelled and how it was in the Spring so the windows were open and we’d do vocals until you could hear the birds through the microphone. And more than any other record I’ve ever done, that album does that to me.” -Dave Grohl in an interview with Kerrang magazine, 2006.
With all of the hoopla about the Foos making their last album (Wasting Light) all analog and in Dave’s garage, I was fingers crossed for another great record like this one. But even with Butch Vig manning the boards, it isn’t the same. TINLTL is like lightning in a bottle. For those who get it, it’s a tonic from all of the cynicism that goes with modern music and is totally deserving of it’s Grammy for Best rock album.
The cover and artwork backup the heart and meaning of this album. The cover is a grainy B&W photo of the back of Dave’s neck where his new band logo tattoo is displayed as a badge of honor. Tired but still breathing and alive. Oh, and full of barbeque too. (The band would barbeque outside every day after recording.)
EDITIONS: For years we’ve lived with the CD, which sounds okay for the time. There is some loudness compression but nothing near giant brickwalled limiting. then there’s the long out of print vinyl that’s been on my wishlist for years. But all the user reports are that the sound quality is absolute crap. So I turned to looking for an even rarer EU pressing which might have had better sound. Never found one and really didn’t feel like dropping around $100. So we now come to to the new vinyl reissue by Legacy cut by Chrirs Bellman. All of the catalog Foo albums have been reissued on vinyl by Legacy in inexpensive renditions all cut by Bellman. They kept the price down by not reproducing all artwork interiors, using inexpensive lighter oversized cardboard and keeping all the vinyl regular 120gram weight instead of opting for heavier 180 gram. The result? Everything a vinyl reissue should be and damn good. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and proclaim this to be the best non-audiophile label reissue I’ve ever come across. For me and many other vinylphiles the price of a reissue is always looming in our decisions on whether or now to purchase. All of these reissues are in the $20-30 price range (and around $15-20 for the single disc S/T) spread across two LPs and are pressed extremely well. I ordered this LP from Amazon for $20 and it arrived dead quiet right out of the box and even includes a voucher for an MP3 download. There is no downside to this reissue and I intend on picking up the rest of the series based on this LP alone. Details come out of the songs like never before, like on the opening of “Learn to Fly” there’s a tambourine!
It’s just so refreshing to be able to buy a cheap vinyl reissue that isn’t mastered from a limited CD master, pressed badly, damaged, warped, noisy, overprocessed and actually sounds like a vinyl record should.
And to top it all off, for once a modern record that has no real sibilance on my system. I use a standard Shure M97-xe at this time, and even though it does a decent job with sibilance, modern records have massive amounts of hissing s’sssss that come into my ears. (Notably the Foo’s own Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace ironically) But this has none of that. Unbelievable just how plain freaking awesome this is.