Looking to shake up a top-selling but increasingly stale formula, Foo Fighters have split their new CD In Your Honor into two discs, one of which contains the band's usual arena-shaking hard rock, and one of which is quieter and mostly acoustic. It's a good idea in theory, but in practice, In Your Honor's acoustic half reveals Dave Grohl's songwriting shortcomings. Without state-of-the-art production and maximum volume, Grohl doesn't have much to offer, especially given his stature and legacy. "Still," the song that opens the collection's soft side, has an appealing surface of Nick Drake/Mark Kozelek somberness, but beneath the clicking percussion and synthesizer backdrop, the ballad features the kind of forced rhymes and simplistic changes that just about any American high-school emo kid could concoct. The disc doesn't get much better over its next nine tracks; aside from the not-so-bad "On The Mend" (one of the most "produced" songs of the second set, tellingly) the back half of In Your Honor is gooey, undercooked, and embarrassingly unpalatable.
Luckily for Foo Fighters fans, the rock half really rocks. The 10 songs on disc one are as loud and assaultive as just about anything Grohl has ever recorded. They take their cues from "All My Life," the powerhouse single that kicked off 2002's One By One. The title track starts with a sustained ear-splitting guitar note and adds more sound—including Grohl's shouty vocals—before letting pounding drums push it to a sweaty climax. The song that follows, "No Way Back," rides a monster riff and a bullying beat through words and music that would probably sound paltry had the song been stuck on the acoustic disc, but on the rock side, it sounds like another Foo Fighters classic. Perhaps because of the album's division, the first 10-song set sounds especially tight and ferocious; it's not all that diminished by the unfortunate revelations of disc two. When a band is as reliably energizing as Foo Fighters, there's no shame in needing studio assistance to finish a thought.