Sometimes you need to be reminded that the [artist id="986"]Foo Fighters[/artist] are one of the hugest rock acts on the planet. This is because — despite the fact that they’ve sold millions of albums, won Grammys, toured the globe and jammed out on Zeppelin tunes with John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page at Wembley Stadium — they are basically four exceedingly normal dudes. Half of them look like accountants. The other half are drummers. None of them are really rock stars.
I only bring this up because — in the grand tradition of every huge rock act that has come before them — the Foos are finally getting around to releasing a best-of compilation, the unassumingly titled Foo Fighters: Greatest Hits (due November 3). That it took them more than a decade to do so is only further testament to their humility. It’s almost as if they kept putting it off, probably because it didn’t feel right.
But now, with the band on a semi-permanent hiatus — and frontman Dave Grohl tooling around with JPJ and Josh Homme in Them Crooked Vultures — the timing seems strangely perfect for Greatest Hits. Like I said, sometimes people need reminding.
And, of course, every massive rock band knows that a best-of comp needs some new material thrown in to sweeten the pot. (The Foos might be unassuming; they are not, however, dummies.) So, in keeping with grand tradition, Greatest Hits features a pair of fresh tracks: “Wheels” and “Word Forward,” both produced by Butch Vig. “Wheels,” which hit radio last week, draws the honors of serving as the first single. That it would be accompanied by a music video was a given.
Sam Brown (who did the video for the Foos’ “The Pretender”) helms the clip, and unlike their previous collaboration, it’s a decidedly mellow affair. There are no exploding walls of viscous fluid or charging men in riot gear this time out. Rather, the whole thing sort of looks like the cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s Plans album: There is much super-imposing of foliage and hazy, gauzy light fixtures that flicker just so. It is a pretty low-key affair — as if the Foo Fighters would have it any other way.
This is not to say that it’s not also pretty good (it is), and it fits the well-worn, workmanlike hum of “Wheels” itself, which would not seem out of place among the latest offerings by Chris Daughtry or David Cook on adult-contemporary radio. These days, with modern-rock stations mining the inner recesses of their program director’s iPod (or disappearing altogether), that’s a decidedly brilliant play for Dave Grohl and company. After all, even huge rock bands need to have their songs heard by the masses.
So while the song (and video) might be slight departures, the Foo Fighters haven’t strayed from the course. They are still a massive act. “Wheels” might make them even more massive, which, given that they’re currently on hiatus, is somewhat fitting — it’s the most unassuming way to go about things, after all.