Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Kurt Cobain's death shook the world. His loss left a void in music and the world, a void that was particularly felt by his now former bandmates. In the wake of this tragic event, Nirvana's drummer Dave Grohl decided to do what so many grieving musicians do - write his way out of his sadness. These writing, and subsequent recording, sessions became the debut album of the Foo Fighters. But though they found success immediately, it wasn't until 1999 that they really cemented their sound.
The Foos' third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose, was considered "experimental" at the time, for the band's two previous efforts were significantly louder. However, the reality is that this experiment simply became part of the band's sound. Taking influence from 1970s/80s American rock, There Is Nothing Left to Lose was a slightly quieter, more melodic record than those the preceded it.
Not that you'd guess that from the opening track. On the contrary, 'Stacked Actors' harks back to the grunge era earlier that decade, and Grohl suitably shouts his way through this heavy opener. This first impression is rather a misleading one, as it becomes increasingly clear that 'Stacked Actors' is the anomaly of the record.
Having said that, though 'Breakout' isn't particularly grunge, it's still hard, fast and heavy, with some real cool effects on the vocals and guitars during the intro. Perhaps they ran out of energy after those two tracks, because it's from 'Learn to Fly' onwards that the record mellows out. Not that it's a sacrifice; indeed, 'Learn to Fly' is one of the strongest songs the band has ever recorded. Catchy, fun and just a little bit emotional, it has resonated with fans ever since its release, a fact made obvious by the fact that 1000 musicians came together in Italy to play it in one of the most wonderful videos on the Internet. The official video for the song, which features Tenacious D, isn't bad either.
Almost everything left on the record, from 'Gimme Stitches' all the way to 'M.I.A', runs at mid-pace, sounding quite Tom Petty in places. 'Generator' is a good track, again using guitar effects, something the band clearly experimented with a lot whilst making this record. 'M.I.A' is also a strong closer, but 'Next Year' is undoubtedly the highlight of this set of songs. The lyrics hit hard, and with the backing of the simple but wonderful instrumentation behind it, this one can be a tear-jerker if you're feeling particularly prone to crying at the time of its playing. It is the pick of the bunch, a bunch that has its roots in old-fashioned American rock.
This sound became part of the Foo Fighters, and on future albums it would be mixed with the heavier stuff to cement the Foos' place as the kings of American alternative rock. This is why this record is so important in their history; it made the Foos who they are. Plus, it was the first record to feature Taylor Hawkins on drums, so there is that as well.
There Is Nothing Left to Lose is a great album. It won't go down in the annuls of history as one of the more legendary albums ever recorded, but with songs such as 'Learn to Fly', 'Breakout' and 'Next Year', it is up there with the most iconic albums of the alt-rock genre. It was the making of the Foo Fighters, and any album that has a song which brings 1000 people together to play it is probably a pretty good one. It is.