"This album is different than anything we've ever done, but it still has our fingerprints all over it," Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl says of One by One, his band's fourth album. "As much of a departure as it may be, there is still a common thread, which is our sense of melody, our sense of arrangement, the way we approach playing our instruments."
Indeed, One by One -- the band's first release since 1999 -- finds the former Nirvana drummer and his combo opening up some stimulating new sonic territory while refining the vibrant balance of melodic craft and tightly coiled aggression that drove their prior efforts, Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape and There Is Nothing Left to Lose. New tunes like "All My Life," "Times Like These," "Come Back," "Have It All" and "Disenchanted Melody" balance surging metallic hooks, while the tender ballad "Tired of You" finds Grohl wearing his heart squarely on his sleeve (with some help from Queen guitarist Brian May).
Grohl is particularly proud of One by One's personally charged lyrics, viewing the album as a song cycle focusing on the ambiguities and gray areas of romance, tracing "the difficult beginnings of falling in love, and then the relief of feeling comfortable in love. I'm a sappy . . . romantic."
One by One features the current Foo Fighters lineup of main songwriter Grohl on guitar and vocals, guitarist Chris Shiflett, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer Taylor Hawkins, which Hawkins refers to as "the final lineup, the one that lasts until the band breaks up."
Hawkins suffered a near-fatal drug overdose while on tour in England in August 2001. According to Grohl, that experience initially made him consider breaking up the band. Instead, the quartet began recording One by One, but Grohl put the sessions on hold to take an extended working vacation as touring drummer with stoner-rock heroes Queens of the Stone Age (he also plays on that band's current album, Songs for the Deaf). Grohl returned from his moonlighting with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for his own group. After scrapping the tracks that the band had already cut, the reenergized Foo Fighters recorded One by One in the space of two weeks.
"I think we're always challenging ourselves, whether we're going in a pop direction or a complicated prog-rock direction," says Grohl, who's also been putting together an all-star death-metal side project called Probot. "That's what makes being in a band interesting and fun: keeping it a challenge and keeping it fresh, doing something different than what you've done before."