By now, the story of how the Foo Fighters' fourth album happened--and almost didn't--has been well-documented, to the point of becoming humdrum legend among the faithful legions waiting anxiously three years on. There was, in no particular order of importance, drummer Taylor Hawkins' near-demise, after swallowing the dumb-ass' cocktail of booze and painkillers last year; the scrapping of four months' worth of recordings, the so-called "million-dollar demos"; Dave Grohl's decision to play with Queens of the Stone Age, the superstar front man playing anonymous timekeeper behind drum kit and dope smoke; the painful legal battles with Courtney Love over unreleased Nirvana recordings, which have been settled in time for a best-of release only days away. Even the band's members figured the Foos had lost the fight and considered a surrender. So, then, how to greet One by One--as miracle or inevitable, as welcome return or inexplicable rebirth? All of the above, of course, and then some: Just when it seemed as though Grohl was gunning for his second Behind the Music episode, from so much chaos and anguish arrives 55 minutes of music so forcefully majestic and nakedly optimistic, and you're left to wonder if One by One would have been worth half a damn were it not for so much bad shit happening to a good band.
Doubtful, since Grohl's "a new day rising" now (Hüsker-how-do-ya-Dü), "a brand-new sky," a man learning not how to fly, merely how to live and love, or so he brazenly sings on "Times Like These"; he's resigned to the brawl, because there's really no such thing as fulfilling victory anyway. Like the man sings on opener "All My Life": "Nothing satisfies but I'm gettin' closer/Closer to the prize at the end of the rope." Only now--after three discs of samey-same arena-alterna, each possessing their handful of brilliant moments but only one, the second album, wholly satisfying--he's determined to keep from being at the end of that rope, dangling like some done-in rocker at the old, old age of 33. He doesn't wanna "Have It All," he insists; what he has is plenty, thanks. One by One finds Grohl, at long last, chasing his own legacy and not someone else's ghost. This is where he finds his voice, where he calls Brian May and plays Queen for a day, where he remakes "Behind Blue Eyes" as a "Disenchanted Lullaby," where he dips into the pool of prog, where he makes rock for the arena and the bedroom, where he sacrifices The Single for the gorgeous, monstrous, humongous whole.