I've long held this album is high, very high esteem (ever since I bought it as a $13.99 impulse purchase when it first came out)... but now with the impending release of "Echoes, Silence, Patience And Grace" and the return of a radio track that catches my ear on the first try (leadoff single "The Pretender"), I was compelled to return to musing on why "There is Nothing Left to Lose" immediately hit me, and then retained its charm over the years.
This is the point of view of a guy who's listened to little other Foo Fighters (apart from the singles and the "One By One" album, which did not captivate me as much as TiNLtL or Grohl's absolutely excellent drumming on Queens of the Stone Age's "Songs for the Deaf"). The reason for my limited knowledge of the rest of FF's canon is simple: most FF singles did not hit me the way the songs on TiNLtL did. "Big Me" and "This is a Call" didn't register highly on my radar, and "Alone and Easy Target" struck me as a catchy _Nirvana_ song... So how did this album measure up on first listen?
After basically skipping over "Stacked Actors" the first time I listened to the album, I gave "Breakout" more of a chance due to its lighter, vocal-and-clean-electric intro. Both tracks employ a "lighter in the verses, dramatically heavier in the chorus" technique that Nirvana adopted from (amongst others) the Posies, and in both cases Dave goes the extra mile by writing a different chord progression for each of those two sections, but the real treat on "Breakout" for me is the sudden nod to power pop composition (without adopting the genre's "feel" in terms of instrumentation) at the end of the chorus and the release immediately following the chorus (which morphs into a "2nd verse" of sorts, turning the original verse chord progression into a bridge in comparison)... and then hitting Nirvana volume (and chords) for a temporary screaming fit.
With this one song, my receptivity towards the album improved impressively. "Learn to Fly" and "Next Year" were the obvious singles from the gitgo, floating closest to the familiar jangle of "power pop" territory. "Aurora" and "Ain't It the Life" are dreamy expeditions to some remote, summer-night beach, with their easy-going melodies and arrangements. "Gimme Stitches" and "Generator" are a bit closer to the familiar "Foo Fighter" territory I presume them to have (judging from the other albums' singles). And "M.I.A." registers as a surprise: though I usually would not give a song of this sort a second glance, its placement at the end of such an enjoyable set of tunes not only enhances its value, but impressively hooks me into the first track on the CD again, allowing me to enjoy that track as well and giving the CD a much appreciated "repeat listening" quality. A rare feat, I actually listened to this album pretty much all the way on a 3.5-hour car trip.
After many listens, my impression of this album is basically one of Dave & company leading the Nirvana-type sound away from grunge into a more bonafide power-pop territory... and injecting extra amounts of melody in the process. Despite its modern sheen and sound, it still retains the feel (perhaps due to choice of chord changes?) of the lesser-heard side of '70s classic rock... notably, the album tracks that didn't sell oodles of 45's to the single-purchasers, but still had that charm that gave them long life on late-night FM radio. Either way you look at it, Dave is playing revisionist to either Nirvana's sound or that of '70s classic rock/power pop, but in my book revisionism is good if it actually _consolidates_ or _improves_ on what is good (no, great) about a musical style, or brings the sound/style into new territory... in short, an album that ends up seemingly surpassing all that came before it (not necessarily talking about the band's previous albums). Sloan, The Darkness, and the Strokes all succeed in taking styles gone into "disuse" by the music industry and bringing them back. Foo Fighters goes one step further by dressing classic-styled hooks and melodies with modern-type riffs and instrument sounds.
After this album, I thought my enjoyment of the Foo Fighters was pretty much a done deal. "Not so," said my first listening of "One by One", when "All My Life" seemed the sole memorable tune of the set. I repeat, this point of view is not from a standard "Foo Fighters fan" (and I've only listened to _parts_ of "In Your Honour" once, if at that, while driving along with a friend), but the appearance of "The Pretender" as the first single off "Echoes, Silence, Patience And Grace" leads me to think that there may be more for me to enjoy from this band just yet.
Okay, so a wordy review... but if you have any difficulty believing me, just listen to the samples!