While Dave Grohl has been busying himself on the Foo Fighters' recent hiatus with the underwhelming Them Crooked Vultures, Bassist Nate Mendel went to do some shows with a reunited Sunny Day Real Estate and Taylor Hawkins put out another Coattail Riders album, guitarist Chris Shiflett has been putting together a more relaxed and country influenced album which, in all fairness trumps all of his band mates other projects by a long way.
The album opens with the stunningly catchy Helsinki, setting the tone for the album from the get-go. The song has a huge chorus and enough melody to put a lot of the most recent Foo Fighters music to shame. What sets this apart from his main band is the use of instruments like pedal steels and slide dobros, giving the songs an obvious country and western feel seldom explored in the Foo's catalogue.
As well as the country instruments, there is of course a great deal of guitar work on show here, with a great riff and solo in the melancholy Bandaged, with it's poignant lyrics and incredibly hooky chorus of "I was wrong, but it was the right choice" This is perfect music for a warm summer's evening.
Sometimes, side-project/solo albums by background members of a band (let's face it, Foo Fighters is pretty much the Dave Grohl show) can be weak vocally and lyrically, as the musician is taken out of their comfort zone and forced to write parts they would not normally have a hand in (see Nicky Wire's I Killed The Zeitgeist album), but Shiflett manages to convincingly pull off the role of front man, delivering a competent vocal performance with decent lyrics. His voice in places recalls former Velvet Revolver and current Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland's voice. Songs like Baby, Let It Out show this off to its full potential.
Make no mistake, this is an album packed with back to back anthems which really does put everything the Foos have done since The Colour and The Shape to shame, although if you aren't really into Country and Western music you should probably sit this one out. At 9 songs and just 34 minutes it is a little on the short side, but with any luck Grohl will be anxious to get back to Josh Homme and John Paul Jones for some more Crooked Vultures before too long, making room for more of this.