Any contest to name a modern-rock Renaissance Man must begin and end with Dave Grohl.
Grohl became something of a household name in the early 1990s, as Nirvana's drummer. But he has come into his own over the past decade, fronting his band, the Foo Fighters, a group that makes most other radio-friendly rock groups sound like rank amateurs. With hooky, hard-driving singles -- and with Grohl featured on vocal and guitar duties -- the Foo Fighters have won four Grammys in their 10 years. This is not to say that Grohl has ditched the drums. He still plays some drums with the band and has popped up as guest drummer for several high-profile bands, including Nine Inch Nails, Garbage, and Queens of the Stone Age.
Grohl makes it look easy -- at least until he picks up an acoustic guitar.
He does this on one of the discs in the Foo Fighters' new double CD, ''In Your Honor," which is out today. The first CD is a stunning romp into hard-rock heaven; the other is a mostly pedestrian descent into an acoustic vanity project.
Rarely has a double CD been more vividly compartmentalized, but at least the price is right.
It costs only $1 more for the two-CD set than it ordinarily does for one. Grohl lobbied his label to ensure that fans wouldn't be gouged.
Let's start with the good news first -- the plugged-in CD in which the Foos reaffirm that they are unsurpassed when it comes to contemporary electric rock. The first line of the opening title track has Grohl shouting: ''Can you hear me? Can you hear me screaming?"
After 10 songs, one is amazed that Grohl has any voice left at all. He sounds like the wailing soul mate of AC/DC's Brian Johnson.
This anthemic first album is the most consistently high-energy Foos record yet.
The raging ''No Way Back" has Grohl shrieking ''I'm dying for truth!" It's followed by the taut ''Best of You," the first single, with his raspy questions: ''Is someone getting the best of you? Has someone taken your faith?" It's proof that underneath the sledgehammer music, Grohl remains a thinking person's rocker.
The romantic crisis of ''The Last Song" has a Dropkick Murphys punk intensity, while ''Free Me" is primal-scream bliss, and ''Resolve," about getting through a tough relationship, has a slashing, Tom Petty-style melody. Every song is a killer, capped by ''The Deepest Blues Are Black" and the self-questioning ''End Over End."
The acoustic CD is another story. Grohl is maudlin on the first four songs, which have lazy riffs and overwrought lyrics, such as ''I go side to side like the wildest tides in your hurricane." Also dreary is the bossa nova ''Virginia Moon," with Norah Jones guesting uneventfully.
The best of the unplugged lot are ''Razor" (with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age playing a complex, drone-spiced guitar figure), and the poignant ''Friend of a Friend," about Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and his charismatic yet fragile personality. (''He needs a quiet room with a lock to keep him in," Grohl sings.)
Most Nirvana fans will want to hear this track, but many are likely to beat a retreat to the plugged-in CD for the greatest satisfaction.