Released May 20, 1997
46 min, 47 sec
(Okay, I lied a little. Posts will probably go up at random between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern, and that’s what will be considered “on-time.”)
In a lot of ways, The Colour and the Shape is the real debut album for the Foo Fighters. Foo Fighters was recorded by Dave Grohl almost entirely on his own in 1994 and 1995, without any intentions or direction for his career in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death and Nirvana’s dissolution earlier in ’94. When the tapes were cycled around the music industry and picked upf or a commercial release, Grohl faced the prospect of having to assemble a band that would then have to record a new album like it was a follow-up to Foo Fighters, an album none of them had contributed to. At the same time, Grohl found himself forced into the position of frontman for the new band – quite the change from sitting behind the drumkit, especially for a person as soft-spoken and reserved as Grohl had been up to that point.
Though these circumstances produced a fantastic, total-package album that set the band on a trajectory to conquer radio rock, there were innumerable obstacles along the way. Grohl, despite having handed over responsibilities for the album’s drums, couldn’t help himself, listening to William Goldsmith’s drum tracks and deciding that they needed to be tweaked. He started with one track, which quickly turned into two, then four, and eventually the entire album, all without Goldsmith knowing about it, as Grohl had only called guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Nate Mendel to re-record their tracks, essentially re-doing the entire album. Goldsmith had no idea what had gone on (Grohl told him that he was just doing overdubs) until Mendel let him know what was really happening. In response, Goldsmith furiously called Grohl up, and, after an argument where Grohl begged Goldsmith tour in support of the album despite no longer having contributed to the final product, Goldsmith quit the band, leaving them without a drummer on the eve of a major tour.
To Grohl’s credit, he expressed remorse for how the situation had been handled, attributing it to his inexperience as a frontman, and bad decision-making stemming from his inability to let go of control. Even so, that would not be the end of the band’s issues, as guitarist Pat Smear expressed his desire to quit as well, disillusioned with the idea of touring for months on end. Grohl convinced him to stay on for, at most, a month and a half, which eventually ballooned into four month, comprising most of the band’s 1997 tour. Finally, Smear was replaced by Franz Stahl in the middle of a live performance at the 197 MTV Video Music Awards; Stahl would stay with the band for just over a year, until he was fired by Grohl, as Grohl did not think he worked well with the band’s dynamic. The group’s line-up would not stabilize until 2002’s One by One, and the personal issues within the band would not resolve fully until 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.
The Colour and the Shape really is a fantastic album. Instead of singing about random bullshit, like much of Foo Fighters, Grohl pulled from his own personal struggles for this album’s lyrics, much of them stemming from his damaged perception of love and romance following his divorce from his wife. The album’s track sequence is designed to reflect a path of healing; the songs early on are loud and chaotic, but slowly resolve back into affirmations of support, most noticeably in radio giant “Everlong” and “Walking After You.” Though Grohl’s method of handling it was coarse and uncalled for, his drumming is a large part of what makes the album’s music so infectiously enjoyable, and though he likely composed many of the songs himself, his newfound bandmates make them come alive, complementing his lyrics with really great, emotional music.
And the album built a huge legacy. “Everlong” and “Monkey Wrench,” even in 2015, get regular radio play. Where Foo Fighters was heavily questioned, seen as the album by Nirvana’s eighteen-thousandth drummer or whatever, The Colour and the Shape demonstrated that Dave Grohl could be a leader and fantastic musicians in his own right. Now, finally, Grohl could properly begin his second chance.