There Is Nothing Left To Lose follows in a long tradition of great third albums. Bruce Springsteen (with Born To Run) and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (with Damn the Torpedoes) both arrived with theirs. Blur’s Parklife, the quintessential Britpop album, and the Verve’s Urban Hymns, a crown jewel of alternative rock, are more recent examples. For some artists, it takes a couple of attempts to really find a sound that belongs to them. Album number three saw Foo Fighters develop their tight but familiar brand of punk rock into a sound that was wholly theirs. The new formula, quite simply, was less noise and more melody. In so many ways, this was a breakout.
The album is confident and assured, partly because this was Foo Fighters’ first settled line-up. A dispute between Dave Grohl and their first drummer plagued the recording of the previous album. Guitarist Pat Smear, at the time almost 40, had been desperate to leave the draining grind of the tour which followed. But in the summer of 1999, with Taylor Hawkins recruited, a more harmonious three-piece headed for Dave Grohl’s cabin in Virginia to record their new album in his basement. No label, no producer, no pressure.
One can almost feel the summer breeze and smell the barbeque in the dreamy, melodic ‘Ain’t It The Life’. The optimism of ‘Next Year’ is infectious. ‘Aurora’ showcases a more reflective side of Grohl’s song-writing. The mischievous ‘M.I.A.’ ends the album on a defiant note. A sense of freedom really did inspire the band to raise their game.
Melody is more prevalent here than in previous efforts, but there’s no shortage of potent, high-tempo rock numbers. Grohl produces some memorable riffs on ‘Stacked Actors’, ‘Learn To Fly’ and ‘Gimme Stitches’. The intensity is not lost either – the lyrics in ‘Stacked Actors’ are pure vitriol. ‘Breakout’ is unfussy and wonderfully exuberant. All these songs appear towards the beginning and set a blistering pace, before the album slows down after ‘Generator’ in a smart piece of sequencing.
Hawkins’ drums have never sounded so forceful and precise. Grohl surfs the dynamics and range of his voice to perfection. The cover, Grohl’s neck with a tattoo of the band’s logo, perfectly encapsulates the album’s purpose – just me and my band playing some songs in my basement. And it won a Grammy.
Most importantly, the album feels coherent. Foo Fighters are primarily known for their singles (‘Everlong’, ‘All My Life’ and ‘Best of You’) and distinguished live performances, but every song on this album deserves its place. The band are the ultimate rock survivors, and this was their peak.