Like most people, I had some big plans for the summer of 2020, a span that had plenty of potential to be a good time only to ultimately turn out to be the exact opposite of that. One of the reasons I was looking forward to the warmer months of this particular year was the many bands who were slated to hit the road—including the Foo Fighters, who were set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the titular debut album that marked Dave Grohl’s return to music following the death of Kurt Cobain.
The band was planning to drive from venue to venue in a van to relive some memories and ultimately host a big old party for themselves in Washington D.C. to commemorate the two-and-a-half decades they’ve spent churning out some remarkably consistent rock music. However, much like how The Summer of George came to an abrupt end on Seinfeld, so did The Summer of Foo thanks to the pandemic that threw live music for a serious loop.
As a result, I’m forced to celebrate one of America’s best rock bands achieving a magnificent milestone in a virtual manner and am doing so with a ranking of their 25 best songs. As is the case with all lists like this, this is fairly subjective, as the line between “the best” and “your favorite” is easily blurred—although I think we can all agree that “Everlong” will probably be number one.
Or will it? There’s only one way to find out.
25. “In The Clear” (2014)
While doing some research, I discovered the 2014 Foo Fighters album Sonic Highway didn’t really get a lot of love. Actually, it barely got any love, which is really a damn shame. Sonic Highway is a solid record. Sure, It’s not great from start to finish and it wouldn’t crack my top five if I had to rank their entire discography but at least half of its eight songs are winners—including “In The Clear.”
In case you forgot, Sonic Highways was recorded in eight different cities, with each stop being filmed as part of the HBO limited series of the same name. “In The Clear” was performed in New Orleans and features the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band helping the chorus reach a level other Foo choruses don’t quite get too.
Pro tip: it’s a great song to listen to while driving.
24. “These Days” (2011)
Should this song be higher? Maybe.
Why isn’t it? Well, it’s a fun song and a great Foo Fighters song but I just think they have 23 better ones. If this was a list of, say, the best Foo Fighters songs to hear in concert, this track would be much, much higher, but it’s not, so it isn’t.
T-23. “Alone + Easy Target” (1995) and “February Stars” (1997)
Whoa! A tie?! Yup, and it’s not the only one. I know I technically promised to rank 25 songs here but realized that wasn’t going to cut it while putting this together. I thought about just putting “February Stars” in the 24th spot but I didn’t like leaving “In The Clear” off the list so creating a tie for No. 23 felt like the best solution.
As for the songs, “Alone + Easy Target” is a forgotten gem from the band’s first album and there is a beauty in how dirty, raw, rough, and just completely grunge it sounds. You can hear Nirvana’s influence but also get a hint at what Grohl was looking to do with his own music.
“February Stars” is also an overlooked golden nugget in the Foo Fighters catalog. Located deep within the band’s amazing second album The Colour And The Shape, you could be forgiven for letting the passage of time alow this mellow ditty to fade off of the radar. It’s a beautiful song, though, and while it might not be one that is immediately thought of when one thinks of the Foo Fighters, it probably should be—especially when thinking of them as a great American rock band because this is a great American rock ballad.
22. “No Way Back” (2005)
The Foo Fighters capped off their first decade with In Your Honor, a 20-song rock explosion that features some of the band’s most famous and memorable tracks—one of which is “No Way Back,” a buzzsaw of energetic, unapologetic rock.
“No Way Back” is also a great bridge track between decades for the band. It shows they hadn’t lost a step but also didn’t intend to slow down at all in the years ahead.
21. “Walk” (2011)
Over the course of their 25-year career, Dave Grohl and Co. have taken the soft-loud songwriting style that was a cornerstone of the grunge movement and pumped it full of arena rock goodness. It’s almost as if the band writes these songs knowing how well they’ll translate to a big room full of fans.
I don’t know if this is the case but I feel like that’s exactly what they had in mind when they make songs like “Walk.” If they did indeed set out to achieve that goal when putting this together, then they absolutely nailed it, because this track is the kind of rafter-shattering tune that rock fans dream about.
T-20. “Make It Right” (2017) and “Congregation” (2014)
I know, I know. Another tie. Listen, I don’t need to explain myself again. All that needs to be said is that both of these songs rock and are equally worthy of securing the 20th spot.
Have you ever heard “Make It Right” before? It’s from the band’s 2017 album Concrete And Gold—which had two solid singles in “Sky Is A Neighborhood” and “Run”—but neither of those can hold a candle to the 1970s rock radio magic that is “Make It Right.”
This song sounds so damn dirty and so damn sleazy. It makes me want to drink shit beer and play pool in a place where I’d probably end up getting into a fight after finding myself unable to resist the urge to pull out a Palm Springs-esque dance routine.
I know that kind of monkey business is frowned upon in drinking establishments like that but goddamn would it be worth it.
“Congregation” is another tune from Sonic Highways, this one recorded in Nashville and featuring Zac Brown on vocals and guitar. It’s not a country song (which is good) but it feels a little like one. It’s a little hard to pinpoint exactly why; it just does—and it also objectively rocks.
That’s the last tie. I promise.
19. “I’ll Stick Around” (1995)
It’s pretty wild that Dave Grohl—a guy brought in to play drums for Nirvana right before they recorded Nevermind and who was subsequently primarily known for his head-banging and cymbal-slamming abilities—would not only go on to front his own band after Cobain passed away but that the band would still be going 25 years later. Successful second acts are a rarity in this life of ours so his is a bit of an outlier and an impressive one at that.
Is he talking about Cobain when he screams “I don’t owe you anything” in the chorus? No way. It’s easy to assume he is, however, and I can’t even imagine the shit tornado that would’ve ensued if social media had been around when Foo Fighters came out today. Ugh. What a nightmare.
18. “Long Road To Ruin” (2007)
One of these days, I’m going to do another article like this that focuses on the best Foo Fighters songs to listen to while driving. It’s below “Paint my front porch” and “Finally deal with the raccoons in my backyard” on my list of priorities but it’s definitely going to happen once I check those off.
“Long Road To Ruin” would probably be much higher on that list, but on this one, 18 feels about right.
17. “Saint Cecilia” (2015)
About a year after their Sonic Highways adventure, the band released Saint Cecilia. It’s only five songs long but those five songs are the rock equivalent of what the kids these days call “bangers.” It’s hard to find a rough patch, and if this list was extended by a few more songs than it already has been thanks to the ties, the EP’s “Sean” and “Savior Breath” would’ve had a shot.
However, it’s the titular track that ultimately gets the nod here.
16. “DOA” (2005)
The Foo Fighters have so many really, really good songs that open with nothing but Dave Grohl’s voice and some guitar. Like…so many, and they’re all so good that at no point does it feel tired or played out. It just feels like, well, the Foo Fighters.
I’d like to tip my cap to drummer Taylor Hawkins on this one because the thundering tom work he gets into throughout this song is so deliciously heavy. Ah, but it doesn’t end there because my dude then gets into some fun hi-hat work during the chorus. “DOA” is just a killer showcase of how great of a drummer he is from start to finish.
Good work, Taylor. Keep it up.
15. “Learn to Fly” (1999)
With a ranking like this one, there will come a time when the amount of daylight that exists between songs starts to get smaller. We reached that point with these rankings a few entries ago, which is how a classic like “Learn to Fly” finds itself at 15.
This is an anthem that the Foo Fighters will be remembered for long after they’re gone, but that’s not enough to earn it a higher spot on the list. It’s a good song, but we’re in Great Song territory, my friends, and being an anthem doesn’t necessarily mean it deserves that label.
I’m looking at you, “Eye of the Tiger.”
14. “Resolve” (2005)
When you’ve released about a dozen albums over 25 years, people start to just lean on the hits and lesser-known songs become reserved mainly for the hardcore heads.
I had forgotten about “Resolve” until diving into these rankings, but in just a few short seconds, I instantly remembered just how rad the song is. It’s especially fun because of how well it exists within the framework of what makes for a great Foo song. It starts on the softer side (although unlike other songs of this nature, it’s the whole band involved from the jump) and then there’s a mellow vibe that runs through the first verse until everything just explodes once the band gets to the chorus. From there, it’s all systems go.
Some people might knock that framework but it’s what’s helped make the Foo Fighters so consistently good for all of these years. Some bands keep things fresh by experimenting and mixing things up, but they’ve kept things alive by driving straight towards what they do best and perfecting it.
13. “Breakout” (1999)
This is one of those “WE’RE NOT EFFING AROUND HERE” Foo Fighters tracks. It builds and it builds and it builds, and while it calms down for a little bit here and there, it never once loses any kind of forward momentum. It just keeps going and going, man.
Also, the screams Grohl unleashes a few ticks after the two-minute mark are the kind that have the ability to reach deep into the insides of those fans in the seats furthest from the stage and tear ’em up with reckless abandon.
A lot of the Foo’s best songs operate at different speeds and come at you from different angles, but not “Breakout.” It’s a ballbuster from start to finish and that’s what makes it so great.
12. “Something from Nothing” (2014)
The opening track from Sonic Highways was recorded in Chicago, and while other songs on the album might be considered more “fun,” “Something from Nothing” is just one hell of a rock song. It’s got a little 70s funk to it, too, and I think that helps put some space between it and everything else on the album.
Again, I don’t understand why Sonic Highways wasn’t better received. Or maybe it was? Maybe I went to the wrong sites and read the wrong lists when doing research. It happens. We all sometimes go left when we should go right. Perhaps there’s a whole slew of rankings and Foo-related articles and retrospectives that do nothing but sing the album’s praises. That’d be nice. It deserves praise. It was an ambitious project that they pulled off while being filmed and the end result was a rock-solid album of eight killer tunes.
Stop being so withholding, internet. It’s not a good look.
11. “All My Life” (2002)
I love how the guitar during those first thirty seconds or so sounds like impending doom or sketchy danger is lurking around the corner. It’s almost mischievous. You’d want to keep an eye on it if it was milling about your store as it’s liable to swipe something if you’re not careful.
I’d have to think that a one-two punch of “All My Life” and “Breakout” would be a wrecking ball live. The band tends to use “All My Life” as a show-opener, but sadly, they don’t play “Breakout” all that much anymore (although to be fair, no one is really playing anything live anymore).
Hey Foo Fighters: how about when all this madness is over and you start playing shows again, you play “All My Life” and then “Breakout” right after? Sound good? I think it would.
10. “Monkey Wrench” (1997)
Foo Fighters was technically the band’s first album but it seems like everyone kind of agrees The Colour And The Shape is really their first album because that debut release was mostly a Grohl endeavor whereas the followup was more of a group project.
The same goes for the songs on The Colour And The Shape. “Doll” kicks things off but the album really gets cranking when “Monkey Wrench” comes on immediately after. I suppose I get why they went with “Doll” first, as sometimes it’s fun to start things off on the mellow tip before really going in. It’s kind of like they’re gaining people’s trust by coming in all quiet and unassuming as if to say, “Don’t worry, we’re pretty lowkey and definitely not liable to cause any trouble. Nothing to see here. Just some guys being super chill.”
Then “Monkey Wrench” comes barging through the wall like the damn Kool-Aid man and the joke’s on you, suckers! Things are about to get nuts.
9. “Rope” (2011)
“Rope” is a tad too subdued to be considered “nuts.” It gets close but never quite there. “Rope” is kind of like Smart Hulk from Endgame; it’s Hulk, sure, but a slightly more refined Hulk. It can still do damage, but it’s just a different kind of damage than what you’re used to.
Either way, the guitars in the beginning are sweet. Both versions of Hulk would agree with that. Thor too. Even Ant-Man. I bet Iron Man as well. Actually, I think all the Avengers would get down with it.
8. “The Pretender” (2007)
“The Pretender” is another one of those Foo Fighters tunes that will live on well past their time together. Shit man, it’s on already being played on classic rock radio stations right now!
I do have to say I’m not sure how I feel about calling something that was released in 2007 “classic rock.” I was already having enough trouble coming to terms with early Pearl Jam songs being bestowed with that label so that’s just a twist of the knife I really didn’t need.
Stay young, my friends. Getting old kind of sucks.
7. “Wheels” (2009)
I love “Wheels.” I love everything about it.
I love that it feels like the kind of rock music no one is making anymore. I love that it sounds so familiar and so unique to the Foo Fighters at the same time. I love that I want to sing along with the chorus every time it hits (and nine times out of ten I do).
I love that it makes me want to drive really fast down an empty highway, crossing the country with the windows down in search of something I know is unattainable but it doesn’t matter because the journey is the real prize in the end. I just want the wind all around me with one hand on the wheel and the other draped over the door, letting the air push it around in any way it seems fit.
I also want to drink so many beers with friends while listening to this song but I’m also totally okay with blasting this while mowing the lawn. “Wheels” is a great rock song and maybe it should be higher but the rest of these are hard to top.
6. “This Is a Call” (1995)
“Wheels” is where it is because despite it being a great rock song, the Foo Fighters somehow have six that are better—starting with “This Is a Call.”
“This Is a Call” is from their debut album but I promise nostalgia isn’t the reason why it’s so high up. Does it help? Yes, but it doesn’t seal the deal. What seals the deal is its youthful energy and recklessness. The guitars are razor-sharp and the drums are manically wild in the best possible way, but at the same time, the vocals are so melodic and earnest and work perfectly in contrast with the instrumentation.
If you don’t crank this shit all the way up when there are about thirty seconds left in the song, then we can’t be friends. We just can’t. I’m sorry, but I’m also not sorry. That’s life.
5. “Best of You” (2005)
Me, every time I hear this song:
No joke. Every. Single. Time.
4. “My Hero” (1997)
“My Hero” just makes me want to watch Varsity Blues. Look, it’s a great song. It rocks. It’s massive and heavy and moves across the wild plains of America like a Mac truck fueled by Bud Heavy and hot dogs, but whenever I hear it, there’s only one thing I can think about.
I still can’t believe the announcer gives Tweeder most of the credit there. He really did Billy Bob dirty.
3. “Bridge Burning” (2011)
I literally had to flip a coin to decide if “Bridge Burning” or “My Hero” deserved the bronze. It was just that neck and neck coming down the straightaway.
“Bridge Burning” is definitely the least-known Foo Fighters track in this top five but it’s certainly not the song’s fault. It’s one of those wild, kick-open-the-doors-of-the-saloon-like-cowboys-used-to-do Foo Fighters’ songs. The beat also races like my heart does when my wife tells me she’s making fish tacos for dinner. It just makes you feel alive.
I’m a big fan of the guitar riff that comes right before the verse, too; the one that is heading in one direction and then abruptly stops to see what’s cracking in the other room. It kind of sums up so much of the band’s music in that a lot of what they are doing isn’t super original but they make it their own by little twists and turns like that.
2. “Times Like These” (2002)
This, simply put, is a classic.
“Times Like These” will outlive all of us, friends. It will be in the shows and movies our kids watch and maybe even the ones their kids watch. Part of what makes me so confident that this song will live in perpetuity is that it was released all the way back in 2002 but somehow still feels fresh 18 years later.
If you want to question the legacy of the Foo Fighters, then you have to do so while ignoring this song and I just don’t think you can—and you definitely can’t when it comes to the song we all knew was going to take the top slot.
1. “Everlong” (1997)
OBVIOUSLY THIS WAS GOING TO BE NUMBER ONE!
Dude, it’s “Everlong.” It’s one of the best rock songs written in the last 25 years. I know it, you know it, hell, people who don’t even know anything about music somehow know it.
It was always going to be “Everlong” and likely always will be. If not, we’re in for one hell of a treat at some point in the future.