Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Foo Fighters

Sound Familiar?

“Everlong,” “My Hero,” “Learn to Fly”

Who Are They?

Dave Grohl’s venture into post-Nirvana territory.

The year was 1994 and music had suffered a devastating casualty with the loss of Kurt Cobain. While Nirvana was obviously done for without the reluctant idol, Dave Grohl did not go quietly into that grunge-less night. He started a one-man project, recording the songs he had kept to himself during his stint as Nirvana’s drummer. Before the release of 1995’s Foo Fighters, Dave figured he needed a legitimate band to tour with. So he recruited fellow Seattle friends Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith (formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate), and threw in Nirvana’s touring guitarist Pat Smear for good measure. And when their powers united, Foo Fighters were born.

After spending most of 1995 touring behind the debut album, the boys settled down in Washington to begin recording their follow-up in 1996. But the initial recording process didn’t go as smoothly as expected. Dave, dissatisfied with how the mixes were turning out, removed Goldsmith’s drum parts and replaced them with his own. That didn’t fly with Goldsmith, so he left the band. But rescue came in the form of Alanis Morissette’s touring drummer Taylor Hawkins, just in time for the release of The Colour and the Shape. And there was much rejoicing.

Foo Fighters saw mainstream success with singles like “Everlong” and “My Hero,” making disgruntled Nirvana fans murmur, “Say, that drummer guy can actually write songs! And good ones at that!” Whodathunkit, right? Unfortunately, Dave didn’t have the same success with band mates. Pat Smear ditched the group and was replaced by Franz Stahl, but Franz left shortly before the band started recording There is Nothing Left to Lose. Terrible decision considering that the album spawned “Learn To Fly,” Foo Fighters’ first single to reach the US Hot 100.

Where Are They Now?

Far from the colossal shadow cast by Kurt Cobain.

After lending some help to Queens of the Stone Age on their album Songs for the Deaf in 2002, Dave turned his attention back to Foo Fighters with new inspiration. The original demos of what would later become One By One were re-recorded, but after the album’s release, the band expressed their displeasure with it. Dave admitted that, “Four of the songs were good, and the other seven I never played again in my life.”

Subsequent albums In Your Honor and Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace earned the band commercial success. Singles like “Best of You” and “The Pretender” transformed them into stadium rock superstars. You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Dave scream, “Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?!” But no one got the best of these guys. To date, “Best of You” is the band’s only single to reach Platinum status in the US. It also earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song in 2006. It was so good, Pat Smear returned as a touring guitarist. Now that’s talent.

In 2009, Dave took a break from the Foos to reunite with Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme on his new project Them Crooked Vultures. The supergroup also included bass master John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. Too good to be true? Think again. The band’s self-titled debut produced the Grammy Award-winning single “New Fang” and proved not only that having John Paul Jones on your side is a win-win situation, but also that Dave Grohl can still rock out on a drum kit.

But Why Foo Fighters?

Their seventh studio album Wasting Light is slated for release on April 12. “Rope,” the first official single, dropped last month and Foo Fighters fans are practically salivating for more. And then there’s this ridiculously cheesy video for “White Limo,” featuring Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. Ah, classic Foo video magic at its best.

What Does Sam Think?

Being part of one of the most influential bands of the ‘90s (and probably of all time) can potentially be a hard image to shake off. At the time, I don’t think many people really expected Dave to find success in anything else. Krist Novoselic dropped out of the music business altogether, so Dave was pretty much on his own. But even with all the doubt, he stepped up and found his own sound. Granted, he was heavily influenced by Kurt (a fact that he’s proud to admit), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Foo Fighters song that sounds even remotely like Nirvana. Dave hasn’t completely distanced himself from his former grungy glory; he’s taken the necessary ingredients and created a monster to call his own.

However, that monster seems to have developed a mind of its own in recent years. While the band’s first three albums are fantastic, the last three have been a little disappointing. That is just the way I see it. Now cue the chorus of, “Blasphemy!” But it’s really not blasphemy, folks. Dave said himself that One By One wasn’t his greatest accomplishment. That album kind of started a slightly bland modern rock trend. “Best of You” was great…the first thousand times I heard it. And with Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, I kept thinking to myself, “Wait. I think I’ve heard this one before.” I was afraid that the Foos had lost their touch. But “Rope” proved me wrong. If the rest of Wasting Light sounds like that single, I’ll shut my mouth.

But there will always be a special place in my heart for The Colour and the Shape. It’s raw, yet catchy, and “Everlong” brings on a whole new level of nostalgia. Plus the video is incredible. Michel Gondry, you are a genius. And Dave Grohl, keep on keepin’ on.

--Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

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