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Foo Fighters

+ {Dave Grohl} + {Probot}

Kings of the alt-rock airwaves (saturation via Classic Rock, Planet Rock, Virgin, et al), Seattle’s own FOO FIGHTERS have mushroomed into America’s top acts, and the most loud and exciting – some might say – since protagonist Dave Grohl’s previous grunge combo, NIRVANA.
Stepping out from behind the shadow of NIRVANA’s reluctant showman Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide April 8, 1994, the instantly recognisable drummer-turned-singer-songwriter/guitarist Grohl and his FOO FIGHTERS (i.e. bassist Nate Mendel, drummer William Goldsmith – both from SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE – and former GERMS guitarist Pat Smear) exploded on to the music scene in 1995; the group moniker incidentally derives from the mysterious lights reported by pilots during World War II.
Continuing the UFO concept, the group founded their own Roswell imprint (initially funded by the folks at Capitol) and debuted in the summer of ‘95 by way of a UK Top 5 single, `This Is A Call’. More harmonic and positively life-affirming than NIRVANA (comparisons were inevitable), the FOO FIGHTERS offered up one of the most exciting debuts of the year; while the lyrics may have been somewhat cryptic, the obvious grunge influences were tempered with an infectious, pop-hardcore rush that was impossible to resist. The accompanying album, FOO FIGHTERS {*8}, sold well on both sides of the Atlantic, as Grohl and Co headed out on a successful series of festival dates. Reference points such as HUSKER DU and the PIXIES were bandied about like confetti; songs such as UK Top 30 hits `I’ll Stick Around’, `For All The Cows’ and the 2-minute `Big Me’, Grohl’s most accessible post-punk-pop jewels.
Work on the Gil Norton-produced follow-up, THE COLOUR AND THE SHAPE {*8}, got off to a difficult start with initial sessions in Seattle being scrapped. Further problems arose with the departure of sticksman Goldsmith halfway through recording, although Grohl subsequently completed the drum parts. Released in spring ‘97 to rave reviews, it outpaced even the debut as it spawned another four classy UK Top 30 singles led by `Monkey Wrench’. FOO FIGHTERS had come on leaps and bounds in the songwriting department, their rich post-grunge tapestry markedly more diverse. With good old romantic love as the driving theme of the record, the likes of the heart-rending `Everlong’ took starry-eyed, melodic distortion-pop to new (neck)hair-raising limits (complete with “Evil Dead”-style video for that true-love atmosphere!), while more mellow musings like `My Hero’ and `Walking After You’ (the latter used on the movie X-Files: Fight The Future) and `Doll’ suggested DG was gaining enough confidence in his writing to chill out and reflect rather than continually going for the jugular. The group’s growing self-belief was confirmed by some barnstorming festival sets, while the album later came out top in “rock bible” Kerrang!’s yearly critics poll.
After DAVE GROHL’s brief expedition into film score work (soundtrack TOUCH {*6} being issued early-‘97), the band inked a deal with R.C.A. and were ready to unleash a third album. Of the OST, most of the tracks are instrumental with a few proper songs slotted in at appropriate intervals. `Bill Hill Theme’ and `Spinning Newspapers’ are of that ilk rooted in heavy rock with thumping drums and distorted guitar riffs. However, it is on tracks such as `Making Popcorn’ and `Scene 6’ that GROHL’s ability and willingness to transcend genres really shines through. The former is a country-tinged ballad, while the latter features a jarring, reggae style guitar over a jazz drum beat. He also shows that he can create edgy, atmospheric pieces on `Outrage’, `Final Miracle’ and `August Murray Theme’. Proper song, `How Do You Do’ would sit well on any of the aforementioned FF albums, while the title track, performed with Louise Post and Late, is a touching love song. Late also appear with JOHN DOE on another ballad, `This Loving Thing (Lyn’s Song)’ and again with Louise on the instrumental `Saints In Love’.
FOO FIGHTERS album number three, the Adam Kasper-produced THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE (1999) {*8}, disappointed no one with its melodic, HUSKER DU/PIXIES-inspired rock tunes, exampled on the near UK Top 20 hit `Learn To Fly’ (one hears RUSH’s `Finding My Way’ every time). With no Pat Smear in sight (deputised on tour/in studio by now stalwart member Chris Shiflett, ex-NO USE FOR A NAME), their no-fuss policy of straight-ahead rock was evident on the catchy `Breakout’ and the very TOM PETTY-esque `Next Year’. Taylor Hawkins, formerly only tour support drummer had been properly installed as a full-time member for the group’s next venture.
Grohl and his mighty FOO FIGHTERS went straight to No.1 in October 2002, courtesy of ONE BY ONE {*6}, a clean, polished-up rock album that seemed to be lacking any kind of sparkle or charisma or just plain damn rawness. Top 10 hit `All My Life’ was very reminiscent of the thrash-attack of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (whom Grohl had moonlighted as drummer!), while elsewhere on the record, rock ballads such as `Times Like These’ were stuck clumsily alongside clean-cut out-and-out rock songs `Low’ or `Have It All’ (both UK hits), and with no attempt made at rekindling the punk spirit. In short, papa Grohl had to get a brand new bag.
As it turned out, Grohl played with his heroes, just for one album: PROBOT (2004) {*7} was the name of both record and project, approaching the 80s revival from a darker, louder angle than most with a Fantasy League-style line-up of heavy/black/death-metallers including LEMMY, KING DIAMOND, Max Cavalera (of SOULFLY), Lee Dorrian (NAPALM DEATH) and Cronos (of VENOM).
Having got the “gwarrrgh” factor out of his system, Grohl found the headspace to record a part acoustic, occasionally NIRVANA-esque FOO FIGHTERS double-set, IN YOUR HONOR (2005) {*7}, another transatlantic Top 3 unit-shifter. The irrepressible DG must be the only man in showbiz who can shout at the Devil with JOHN PAUL JONES one minute and duet on a NORAH JONES bossa nova (`Virginia Moon’) the next. Fair do’s to the man for his mind-boggling eclecticism but let’s face it, most fans will have disc 1 on repeat, specifically the UK Top 5 `Best Of You’.
Culled from highlights of their Pantages Theater, LA show, 2006’s concert set SKIN AND BONES (2006) {*6} was basically a “best-of” live, albeit alongside guest friends Pat Smear and Petra Haden. Back to familiar acoustic/electric, sonic-pop territory, ECHOES, SILENCE, PATIENCE & GRACE (2007) {*6} built on their previous five studio efforts, and brought about a reunion of sorts with producer Gil Norton. Marked by a rare US Top 40 single (UK Top 10) in opening salvo `The Pretender’, the set oozed enough energy to satisfy most fans’ lust for rock, albeit diluted and ready for mass consumption.
With Butch Vig at the controls for 2011’s comeback piece (Grohl had been part of THEM CROOKED VULTURES alongside Josh Homme and JOHN PAUL JONES), WASTING LIGHT {*8} was yet another chart-topper, and probably their best since ‘97. Kicking aside some of his more pop-orientated traits, while making space for former NIRVANA pal Krist Novoselic, HUSKER DU’s `Bob Mould and the returning Pat Smear reinstalled as axeman extraordinaire, classic rock was back in town through `Rope’ (think THIN LIZZY), `White Limo’ and `Dear Rosemary’.
Over the years, the Foos have covered a raft of pop/rock songs as B-sides including:- `Ozone’ (KISS), `Gas Chamber’ (ANGRY SAMOANS), `Drive Me Wild’ (Vanity 6), `Baker Street’ (GERRY RAFFERTY), `Danny Says’ (RAMONES), `Iron & Stone’ (The OBSESSED), `Requiem’ (KILLING JOKE), `Down In The Park’ (Tubeway Army/GARY NUMAN), `Sister Europe’ (The PSYCHEDELIC FURS), `Have A Cigar’ (PINK FLOYD), `Never Talking To You Again’ (HUSKER DU), `Darling Nikki’ (PRINCE), `I’m In Love With A German Filmstar’ (The PASSIONS), `I Feel Free’ (CREAM), `Born On The Bayou’ (CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL), `Holiday In Cambodia’ (DEAD KENNEDYS), `Keep The Car Running’ (ARCADE FIRE), etc. A handful of them also stem from a limited-edition MEDIUM RARE (2011) {*5} covers set, which boasted PAUL McCARTNEY/WINGS’ `Band On The Run’, JOE WALSH’s `Life Of Illusion’, MOSE ALLISON’s `Young Man Blues’, THIN LIZZY’s `Bad Reputation’ and The ZOMBIES’ `This Will Be Our Year’.
Accompanied by travelogue documentary film turned into eight episodes for HBO, FOO FIGHTERS (Grohl, Mendel, Shiflett, Smear and Hawkins) premiered studio set number eight, SONIC HIGHWAYS {*7}, late in 2014. Taking the unique concept of writing lyrics on leaving each city/state: e.g. `Something For Nothing’ (post Chicago, IL), `The Feast And The Famine’ (Arlington, VA) and `Congregation’ (Nashville, TN), Grohl was happy that this set might mark it out from his usual run-of-the-mill formula. Sadly, the syrupy, anthemic metal was still apparent. Only an esteemed array of cameos, namely Rick Nielsen (of CHEAP TRICK), Pete Stahl & Skeeter Thompson (of SCREAM), ZAC BROWN, GARY CLARK, JR., JOE WALSH, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Ben Gibbard (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE) and both Tony Visconti and protégeé KRISTEEN YOUNG (the latter pair on the 7-minute curtain call, `I Am The River’), proved little more than self-indulgence as one was pushed hard to get any significance – or, indeed, a proper guest list earful over excessive loud-rock angst.
Although intended for a freebie fanclub-only release dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, the mini-set download SAINT CECILIA EP {*6} went viral the following February. Consisting of five straight-ahead rockers led by the glorious title track (named after the hotel it was recorded), FOO FIGHTERS had an unintentional hit on their hands; `The Neverending Sigh’, the MOTORHEAD-ish metal-punk of `Savior Breath’ and the dreamy, NEIL YOUNG-esque `Iron Rooster’, their best for yonks.
An injured Grohl ended his self-imposed 6-month exile in late 2016, when the heated US election saw a triumphant Trump become President. That was indeed the crux of the frontman’s woes on transatlantic chart-topper, CONCRETE AND GOLD (2017) {*7} – more or less his desperate concerns about future environment, women’s rights et al, shaped under an incumbent White House manipulator of man and money. Described by several reviewers as “prog-rock”, the album itself – with on-tour keyboardist Rami Jaffee fully integrated – was certainly different, but basically it was hook-centric hard-rock dressed up with psychedelic harmonies (e.g. `The Sky Is A Neighborhood’). There was a angst-y theme running through its Greg Kurstin-produced grooves (`Run’ and `The Line’), and in the crescendo-chasing `Dirty Water’, Grohl’s utopian ethos seemed cathartic at best. If anything, the lighter side of the Foos came across like The BEATLES sharing a studio with PINK FLOYD on the title track finale and `Sunday Rain’; the latter featuring as it did, PAUL McCARTNEY – on drums!
© MC Strong 1996-2006/GRD-BG/MCS // rev-up MCS May2012-Sep2017

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