Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 15: Foo Fighters, "Foo Fighters"

Artist: Foo Fighters
Album: Foo Fighters
Year: 1995
Label: Roswell/Capitol

Even if Kurt Cobain hadn't been murdered, chances are, In Utero would still have been the last Nirvana studio effort. Reliable sources speak of drummer Dave Grohl playing homemade demos during breaks as far back as the In Utero recording sessions and it is quite clear that he was ready to leave the band. These early demos would serve as the building block for the project that would turn Grohl into one of the biggest rock stars on the planet, Foo Fighters. Keeping the spirit of pure rock and roll alive, Foo Fighters were a breath of fresh air in an era of over produced, heavily computer altered, overall weak popular music. The group's music was far more pop-based than that of Nirvana, and the fact that Grohl was able to seamlessly switch from drummer to guitar and vocalist represents a truly a one-of-a-kind musical moment. Combining edgier rock-based music with fantastic song writing and almost unexpectedly spectacular singing, Foo Fighters quickly became one of the most in demand bands around, and they remain in that capacity to this day. Recorded only a few months after the death of Cobain, the self-titled debut from Foo Fighters remains one of the most powerful and truly magnificent rock albums ever recorded.

Upon the release of Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl did all he could to distance himself from Nirvana, and the album has very few photographs of him, and barely mentions his name. These actions make it clear that he did not want the band to be thought of as "the drummer from Nirvana's new band" and wanted Foo Fighters to have their own, unique identity. The anonymity was quickly dispelled, as Foo Fighters was almost instantly a massive, worldwide hit. Powered by three top ten singles, the album went on to crack the top twenty-five in album sales, as well as get a Grammy nomination for "Best Alternative Music Album." In a slight bit of irony, Foo Fighters was beaten at the Grammy's, with the award going to Nirvana's MTV Unplugged In New York. Regardless, Foo Fighters remains one of the greatest rock records in history, and the wide range in sounds and styles that Grohl wished to explore are all evident within the albums' three hit singles. The album and bands' breakthrough second single ("Exhausted" was the first single off the album), "This Is A Call," is one of the most perfect rock and roll songs ever written. With its amazingly catchy guitar riff and sing-along lyrics, the song is a massive departure from the overly aggressive, crunching sound of Nirvana. The song dominated the charts and was only held out of the top spot due to the annoyingly unavoidable mega-hit, "You Oughta Know." Both on the album, as well as order of singles, "I'll Stick Around" is a stunning follow-up. It is on this song where one realizes that Grohl has an amazing voice, as well as great understanding of how to blend pop vocals with heavier, more rock screams. Popular rumor claims this song is about the relationship between Grohl and Generation X's Yoko Ono, Courtney Love. Many believe that the songs' chorus, "...I don't owe you anything..." is a direct statement to Love, and if one believes this, then the repeated "I'll stick around..." is wonderfully true as well. Every song on Foo Fighters serves as a testament to the amazing musician that lived within Grohl and was clearly a sign of things to come.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Foo Fighters is the fact that, on the studio recordings, Dave Grohl plays every instrument on every track, aside from the guitar on "X-Static." Though he would assemble a touring band after the albums' release, Grohl plays every guitar, bass, and rum part on the entire album, which instantly propels him onto a list with the most amazing and elite musicians in history. Every song is equally amazing, and the songs have survived the test of time, with the wonderful melodies and perfect balance of pop and punk making the group one of the most in demand bands on the planet nearly fifteen years after Foo Fighters first appeared. Perhaps the most infamous song on all of Foo Fighters is the somewhat quirky, lightly presented fifth and final single, "Big Me." The song itself is absolutely beautiful, yet there is little doubt that it will forever be best remembered for the legendary video which parodied the commercials for Mentos. Re-branding them as "Footos," the band stopped playing the song live for years due to repeatedly getting pelted with Mentos on stage during the song. A "muzak" version of the song, written by Grohl, can also be heard at the opening of the bands' later video for "Monkey Wrench." Foo Fighters presents an extraordinary amount of sonic diversity, from aggressive, louder songs to extremely light, mellow songs and the fact that every song was performed entirely by Grohl is a testament to how brilliant a musician lives inside him.

Possessing by far one of the most unexpectedly fantastic voices, Dave Grohl remains one of the greatest rock singers in history. Thankfully not needing or wanting any of the voice correction systems that were popular at the time (can you say Everclear?), Grohl's voice is truly perfect on every song. Whether he is screaming with fury or showing off his extremely pleasant singing voice, Grohl perfectly conveys the mood of every song. The balance between the two styles is highlighted on songs like "I'll Stick Around" and "Good Grief," and Grohl's ability to seamlessly switch between the two distinct styles is a testament to both his ability, as well as his undeniable talent. The energy that Grohl brings to his live performances are truly legendary, as he notoriously goes "all out" on every song, every night, and this is yet another reason why he absolutely one of rock and roll's elite performers. Throughout Foo Fighters, one can find Grohl turning the pen on himself, and this is perhaps no more apparent than on songs like "Alone & Easy Target" and the absolutely brilliant "For All The Cows." With lyrics on the latter, "...I said you're all, a painted doll, and it caused the walls to fall...how far is he?" it is almost impossible NOT to directly connect the song to the aforementioned talentless succubus, Love. Quite literally, everything about Foo Fighters is perfect, and the surprisingly fantastic voice of Dave Grohl is perhaps the most delightful, as his brilliant songs remain in heavy rotation, as they are now true classics of rock and roll.

Succeeding in any musical capacity after being a part of one of the biggest bands in music history is by far one of the most difficult tasks that any musician can face. A majority of the time, A majority of the time, these later records are simply a less-stellar version of the larger bands' sound, and the artist in question simply tries to re-create former musical magic. Attempting to distance himself from his former band, Dave Grohl takes a far more pop-based approach to the songs, and the results remain some of the most memorable songs of the entire decade. Foo Fighters, which get their name from the World War II term for UFO's, remain one of the finest and most well respected bands on the planet, nearly fifteen years after the release of their debut record. Bringing the over-processed sound of the time back to its pure rock roots, Foo Fighters proved that there will never be any substitute for raw musical talent and honest lyric writing. Powered by a dozen absolutely magnificent songs, there is not a weak moment anywhere on the record, and Grohl displays his amazing musical diversity that one can clearly see was being restrained within Nirvana. Having recorded half a dozen more superb studio records since, the band remains high atop the rock greats to this day, and the album that started it all, their 1995 self-titled debut quickly proves that Foo Fighters were and are one of the most pure and musically phenomenal band in the entire history of recorded music.

Standout tracks: "This Is A Call," "I'll Stick Around," and "Big Me."

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