Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Foo Fighters - Medium Rare - 2011

After hearing the sweet saxophone solos of the Gerry Raferty single "Baker Street" on a recent car ride, the VVers were reminded that they also have a different, but equally fantastic, version of it on Foo Fighters Medium Rare.  That's the best kind of way to be reintroduced to a record that has hidden in your collection for some years.  Why is this song on a Foo Fighters LP you might wonder?  Medium Rare, released in 2011, is a Record Store Day exclusive covers album, with all but two tracks previously available.  The Foo's have shown time and again that they have broad tastes that often veer into obscure gems as showcased nicely here.  This isn't some schmo covers album.  These thirteen tracks pay homage to the mostly 70's era originals with bravado.

Why not lead off the collection with the one tune on this album that challenges that whole obscurity thing?  "Band on the Run," the cover of Wings arguably most popular tune, proves that covering a mainstream hit can work if you've got the right intensity.  Dave Grohl and company absolutely slay this note-for-note cover.  They particularly master the vocal harmonies and tempo shifts here.  No small feat for this complex track.  "I Feel Free" is a lush redo of a Cream song that does a lot of the same to a slightly lesser extent.  "Life of Illusion" has some struminess and punchy drumming that work well.  It keeps the momentum moving while not necessarily being a standout.

The VVers were not familiar with "Young Man Blues," but this cover begs a listen to the original.  (Ok, the VVers couldn't help themselves and checked out the original Mose Allison track (spare, jazzy, and bluesy) as well as The Who's version, which bridges the gap.)  The Foo's recorded this one live at Austin City Limits.  Mid-track the blazing tempo pauses for a ridiculous guitar call and response.  Grohl's vocals occasionally veer into a shrill, wince-inducing yelp.  At the right volume (LOUD) it works extremely well.

"Bad Reputation" is a fun little charging number with some crunchy guitars.  It might as well be the proto-child for the next track--the Prince cover, "Darling Nikki"--as the two songs are basically about the same thing.  The difference being that "Darling Nikki" is just about the the most killer thing on this album.  Its lacerating guitars provide a punishing pace that will push you into jumping up and down territory.  It is always impressive when a band can take a song from another genre and totally make it their own as the Foo's do here.

"Down in the Park" is a nice weirdo track with some pleasing guitars shifting to and fro. At least the Foos are good at subbing out the synths of the original version with their versatile guitarmanship.  Its oddness leads nicely into the majestic Gerry Rafferty cover "Baker Street."  After you get over your shock that it is lacking that aforementioned infamous saxophone, you will realize that the whining guitar does an ample replacement job.  If only there were words for the whooo ouuu ouuuuwwws screeching in the climax of this one!

The ballad track "Danny Says" is a spot on cover of a Ramones song.  Mellow for a spell and then WHOOSH in blows "Have a Cigar" which sounds exactly how you would imagine the Foo's version of this classic Pink Floyd rocker; it is loud, gritty, screamy, and great.  The Foo's put an extra electrifyingness in all aspects of this recording.  Check out the meaty sleeve and lo and behold, the one and only Brian May is credited for lead guitars.  The VVers knew something was up!

"Never Talking to You Again" is a tight live Husker Du cover.  Short and sweet "oooh ooh oooh."  Even shorter, the 57 second "Gas Chamber" is the only track on this compilation recorded during the sessions for the first Foo's album.  The snotty sludge vibe certainly matches that LP perfectly.  Lastly, "This Will Be Our Year" is a sweet and poppy album closer.  It is... naptime.  Nice violins too.

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