Although people tend to think of Dave Grohl as nothing more than the former drummer in overrated Grungester Seattleans Nirvana, the man has a surprisingly large amount of Metal cred to his name, ranging from the Probot project (how many other Rock musicians can you name that could get the likes of Lee Dorrian, Tom G. Warrior, Max Cavalera and Cronos on an album?) to such rarely known facts as that Nirvana stated Celtic Frost as an influence on debut album Bleach, and apparently tried quite hard to get Sepultura on the In Utero tour.
So, he walks the walk, but does he talk the talk? His post-Nirvana project Foo Fighters formed in 1995, originally with Grohl playing everything but soon developing into a proper band, and from the outset it seemed as if he was onto a winner, early songs such as This Is A Call and I’ll Stick Around becoming hits. Things have only improved for Grohl since then. Foo Fighters has become one of the few modern Rock acts that can draw a stadium-sized crowd, selling out such venues as LA’s The Forum and London’s Wembley Stadium - the latter so popular that tickets were sold out in a single day.
Of course, what needs to be examined here is what relevance a band that apparently gets six figures a night holds in the lives of ordinary Metalheads like thee and I? Why should this radio-friendly band with a funny name (named after WWII pilot-speak for UFOs) get any more respect than the Nicklebacks and Panic At The Discos that sadly seem to make up the mainstream Rock scene? Well for a start, unlike those two bands Foo Fighters’ songs aren’t all the same and are just about heavy enough to have more of a Metallic bent. If you’ve happened to have heard previous hits such as Monkey Wrench and Times Like These and not (even secretly) enjoyed them, then you’re a cold-hearted wretch indeed – not all of us can listen to Death Metal all the time without a break, and when you’re in the mood for something that’s less demanding than Cephalic Carnage yet packs a punch of its own, Foo Fighters provides a great soundtrack. It’s also worth mentioning that Grohl has always seemed like a nice, down-to-earth type of person, far from the behaviour that makes people regret buying records by the likes of Axl Rose and Gene Simmons.
Six albums into his career, Grohl has largely dropped the Punk of earliest works and now seems to have (warning – music journalism cliché approaching!) matured. From the unwieldy and intriguing album title to the songs themselves, the intelligence that has always lurked at the heart of his songwriting has finally come to the surface. Opener The Pretender soothes at first with gentle guitars and very subtle strings, before the drum beats and riffs (yes, there are most definitely riffs present) start their magic, clearing the way for yet another fist-in-the-air, life-affirming chorus that might make this the band’s best song yet. Everything about it, from the surprisingly complex instrumentation to Grohl’s voice, is simply brilliant, and never for a moment does this feel like it’s aimed at the teenage market. The lyrics speak volumes - ‘what if I say that I’m not like the others’ indeed; this band is a cut above.
The album only gets better from then on, although there’s little as instantaneous as The Pretender. Let It Die repeats the ‘light opening, then heavy’ trick, building slowly with several false starts before launching finally towards the end of the song. Erase/Replace and Long Road To Ruin are anthemic sing-alongs, the former sporting a gentle midsection that will make Devin Townsend jealous, and the latter with a rather cool guitar solo – yet they can only suffer in comparison to that killer first song. The answer is, of course to stop thinking of the Foos as a radio-friendly singles machine and to start seeing it for what it has become: an intelligent Rock band that makes albums rather than churns out the hits. Listen to Echoes, Silence… all the way through, really sit down and give it your all, and it rewards. Even the likes of Come Alive, a five-minute ballad, lives up to its name and becomes a subtle yet worthy song, proving the band’s versatility.
Whether it’s the acoustic ramblings of Stranger Things Have Happened and instrumental Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners (a tribute to a pair of Tasmanian miners trapped in a collapse a few years ago who asked for Foo Fighters albums to be sent down to help pass the time) or the Classic Rock-influenced Summer’s End and Statues, there’s not a weak song on the entire album. Grohl and the rest of the band - Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel and Chris Shiflett – have made their best album to date, with a production that lets the instruments shine through without unnecessary polish and even makes the bass a vital part of the puzzle. It’s a sad fact that many Metal producers are, for want of a better term, cack-handed when it comes to giving the molten steel that flows through their fingers that final glow, and they could learn a lesson from Echoes, Silence…
Another lesson to be learned from this album is one for Metal bands in general. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – the art of songwriting is fast fading from the Metallic landscape, only to be replaced with what passes for catchiness nowadays in the form of simplistic riffs and clean singing. Bands have to learn to write songs and stop simply relying on the fact that we’re listening to them because they’re significantly heavier than what is on the radio. We like our ears to be bludgeoned, admittedly, but it’s always a nice change to take a rest and have them seduced instead. So ultimately yes, there are heavier Rockers than the Foos out there - but few have bought such refinement to their art.MySpace
Killing Songs :
The Pretender, Long Road To Ruin, Stranger Things Have Happened, Statues, Home
|Goat quoted 84 / 100|
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