These days there are no restraints - no emotional, no personal, no financial. They still sound like the Foo Fighters, just out of the closet and galloping in wide open spaces, like so many other mainstream rock bands out there. They just seem to ever-so-gradually blend a bit more into the herd with each record that gets released. That foundation of thought is what the following list is built upon, FYI. The Foo Fighters have a shit-ton of songs out there floating about that never made it to an official album. These are my favorites of those:
12. The Colour And The Shape (Colour And The Shape French Limited Edition, Monkey Wrench single CD 1): I don't particularly get off when the Foo try to get all heavy-as-fuck, but this being probably the most heavy-as-fuck thing they've ever done amongst a very thick catalogue of poppy punk rock whoopee definitely stands it by itself and far away from the rest of the herd. Not to mention that it is a bit off-the-wall and bad ass. Aaaaaand I always think it's kind of cool for a song that an album is actually named after (in this case the band's "seminal" album) not to be released on said album and instead rear it's ugly head as a back alley B-side; see also Elliott Smith's "Figure 8".
11. Normal (Times Like These single CD 2): Ironically enough 'Normal' plays the role opposite of it's predecessor on this list, as it's a pretty straightforward by-the-numbers Foo Fighters track. That being said it feels like it embodies almost all of the qualities of their songwriting in one fell swoop, a little bit of rock, a little bit of pop, a touch of balladry, kind of singing, kind of screaming, stellar melodies. 'Normal' sounds like it can be thrown into the tracklist of any album after 1995 without fuckin' up the mix, which kind of makes it classic Foo Fighters.
10. Baker Street (My Hero single, Next Year single CD 2): Swapping the brass for a guitar as the main spine of the song gave it the grit that the original unfortunately never had for me. All the while it stays subtle and never gets as over the top as a song like this has the potential of getting when it's being covered by a rock band - probably more because of the production than the performance, but Grohl's quieter vocals keep it grounded too. The Foo's music has always been composed for a sunny fall day for me, this song always was too: combining the two was a lightning strike that just made sense.
9. World - demo (Resolve single CD 2): A couple of months ago at the time of this writing, somebody released the "Million Dollar Sessions" onto the internet. These were the scrapped demos of a batch of songs that would later appear on One by One; essentially the writing on the demos doesn't differ too much from what was presented on the album. The demo's quality is, well, demo quality - for a band as big as the Foo Fighters that's still better than most, but it's still a whole lot more straightforward and a whole lot less bombastic than what was released in it's finality, and to me it sounded more like the Foo Fighters than what came out. 'World' is a demo, I don't know if it was recorded by an entire band or just Grohl, but it has the simple-but-good, less polished, less dynamic approach to it that reminds me of the early, lo-fi, less confident days of Dave by himself, which makes it feel all the more personal.
8. Petrol CB (The Pocketwatch Demos): The most Nirvana-esque of anything Grohl did by himself or with the Foo, it actually plays out like a photo-negative of any of the more manic songs on Nevermind or Bleach - pulling a switcheroo by distortedly screaming the verses and melodically singing the chorus. It's not on the list because it lacks it's own identity, it's on the list because it drips with the nostalgia of 90's guitar fuzz and the juxtaposed shoegaze-like melodies in the vocals during the chorus. It's insecure and awesome for it.
7. Dear Lover (Scream 2 soundtrack, My Hero UK single): So damn sappy it may in fact be completely tongue in cheek. It is Foo balladry ripped right from the Colour And The Shape era, only it never succumbs to power chords or the grand finale the way the aforementioned's 'Up In Arms' and 'February Stars' do - and serves as a full platter rather than the appetizer 'Doll' wound up being, which is the closest thing it relates to. They never came back to do anything like this again, and they couldn't without taking huge steps backward, which is tough for an arena band to do.
6. Milk (The Pocketwatch Demos): This is the epitome of all of the great things that Foo Fighters used to be, lo-fi guitars strumming with the momentum of Sonic Youth, the basement production, the straight forward unsure vocals floating on top of it all, simple lyrics, love it. Foo Fighters and The Pocketwatch Demos kind of share a space all their own in the band's discography, this track is one of the best on both.
5. The Sign (In Your Honor UK and Vinyl editions): This song fucking rocks - it's got that leaning forward keep-going-till-you-fall-into-something momentum that songs like 'Everlong' and 'Generator' flaunted. It sounds like late nineties Foo Fighters filtered through mid-2000 Foo Fighters. Actually, it sounds a whole lot like 'Fraternity', primarily it's chorus "give me a sign I'll come for you" / "I'll never be fraternity". That similarity is the only reason I can think of as to why this one never turned up an A-side. Like maybe he wrote it, recorded it, did everything they needed to do to it, then one night at 3 a.m. he shot up from bed like "FUCK!! Did that already....B-side.". This song is the reason Fraternity isn't on the list, I know it's kind of bullshit but with this I just don't need that. Dig?
4. Floaty - BBC Session (Big Me single): The alternative version of what appears on the self-titled debut is a softly strummed, lighter than air take whose fragility feels palpable. As though the whole song could dissipate completely at any moment like putting your hand through a vapor cloud hanging stagnant in the air. A better alternative version of any song in the catalogue that was remixed or reimagined acoustically.
3. Down In The Park (Songs In The Key of X, Monkey Wrench single CD 2): Yeah, it's a cover, but it's such a bad ass cover. Kind of dark and ominous (for the Foo), like I can smell the rubbish burning inside the garbage can as I stroll past in slow motion. The performance is straightforward but the tone and sounds are like melting yellow starburst on the pleasure zones of my brain. For me it is a perfect sonic representation of what the songs lyrics are about, more so than the original.
2. A320 (Godzilla soundtrack): This was released somewhere between The Colour and the Shape and There Is Nothing Left To Lose, which means it was recorded closer to the former. This was a flash of things to come from the Foo, but at the time it was something so seemingly out of their league that it became one hell of a hidden gem and a half. A gentle monologue that builds to a soaring instrumental latter half, sonically painting it's theme onto our imaginations as our narrator's plane comes gently plummeting to the ground, disappearing into the clouds below during the fade out. A mature and well written number that scoffs at mainstream rock song structures and actually includes, strings? Are those strings I hear from the band in 1998? I know it seems a tad hypocritical to put this track so high on the list given my penchant for the simpler more stripped down approach that I hold the band in high regard for, but while this kind of thing is just another spoke in the wheel for the band now, back then it was, in their catalogue, a beautiful and epic movement - and remains so for me.
1. How I Miss You (Winnebago/Big Me/I'll Stick Around singles): I know it's ridiculous, but this weak-ass, soft and simple little whimper to yowl is arguably one of my all time favorite songs from the band, for all of those reasons. Foo Fighters is my favorite album from this group, for all of the reasons I've sporadically listed above, but especially because of how personal it feels - this song is everywhere he didn't go in so many spots on that album all congealed together, in the end it's an extension of it. A final purge from a place he'd never go back to again.