'The Essential Foo Fighters' Is Just That

Back when owning physical copies of music was the norm, a sign as sure as carols on the radio and storefront holiday decorations that Christmas drew nigh was a batch of greatest hits albums by artists who had enough to put one together. They made the perfect present for someone you knew liked the artist in question, but you weren’t quite sure which songs they preferred or which, if any, of the artist’s albums they owned. The greatest hits albums were a perfect compromise. Even if the gift receiver already had everything in by the artist, they didn’t have all of, or at least most of, their best stuff in one handy package.


In these days of streaming and valueless music — interpret that as you will — the greatest hits package has mostly disappeared. Why bother putting one together when people consider CD players antiques? Besides, you can always throw together a Spotify or whichever service you prefer playlist. It does make gifting music rather challenging, though.

Unsurprisingly, recent times have seen the two most visible artists fervently carrying the standard for popular music standing for something other than disposable background noise buck the trend by going unashamedly retro. The utterly gifted and often irascible Jack White tied up all loose ends in 2020 with a White Stripes greatest hits package, and now Dave Grohl has gifted Foo Fighters fans with “The Essential Foo Fighters.”

The album, released October 28th on a single CD and two-disc vinyl, is the band’s second greatest hits package, the first released in 2009. There is naturally some duplication, with the new package also containing tracks from three of the band’s four studio albums released after the first greatest hits album. Surprisingly, “Essential” has nothing from the band’s 2014 album “Sonic Highways.” If one is to believe something on Reddit, apparently the band isn’t enamored with the album, with few if any songs from it included in recent tours. However, as with any compilation, there isn’t enough room for everything. Therefore, we focus on what is present.


The album’s packaging, at least on CD, is minimalistic. Three band photos and a four-page booklet listing songwriting and production credits. That’s it. Lyrics, and especially liner notes, would have been welcome. Perhaps there is more on the vinyl version, which includes two songs that are not on the CD: “Waiting On a War” from 2021’s “Medicine at Midnight” and “Breakout” from 1999’s “There Is Nothing Left to Lose.”

Starting with maximum strength, the album kicks off with “Everlong” from 1997’s “The Colour and the Shape.” It is the quintessential Foo Fighters track, featuring one of the all-time great hard rock riffs. It also features one of the more bizarre music videos in recent memory. However, looking at it now, perhaps the most bizarre aspect is seeing Grohl clean-shaven with relatively short hair.

From here, the album keeps rockin’ and rollin’. Favorites abound; for example, “Best of You” from 2005’s “In Your Honor” (as a side note, the song was firmly on my mind when I wrote this post regarding the two meanings of someone getting the best of you).

There’s also “All My Life” from 2002’s “One by One,” which, despite its raw power, remains a song best advised not to sing along with should it come on the car radio when you are in said car with someone on your first date.

And the hits keep coming.


The album’s most poignant moment is “Cold Day In The Sun,” a lovely mid-tempo piece from “In Your Honor” written and sung by the late Taylor Hawkins.

“The Essential Foo Fighters” is not a career-encompassing collection. It isn’t meant to be. What it does to near perfection is put the best of rock’s standard bearers together in one handy package. “The Essential Foo Fighters” is the perfect Christmas gift for that deserving, discerning music lover. Just don’t forget to buy an additional copy to give to someone other than yourself.


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