Just Because It’s Popular Doesn’t Mean It Sucks: Foo Fighters

(This one’s for you, Nic.)

So; this is the new Foo Fighters single, “Rope.” After almost breaking up (or ‘going on hiatus’) while Dave Grohl toured with Them Crooked Vultures—at least, that’s what I assume what happened with that greatest hits record that was released—they’re back with something new, and probably a new tour to top it off this summer.

I’ve had interesting experiences regarding Foo Fighters shows (read one account here, and the less said about the real reason I didn’t go to the acoustic tour where they opened for Bob Dylan the better.)

Verdict on the new single: I don’t hate it. I like it better than the entire ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ album. It’s interesting that they’ve started to play with offbeats and noise solos to the degree that they have—Josh Homme’s influence on Dave is, I think, showing through a bit with those little ‘what the hell was THAT?!’ tweaks on the classic riff-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus FM radio formula the Foos write so damn well. But the video is easily one of the worst I’ve ever seen. This group has won three Grammys, and made uncounted dollars for the record label. Throw enough money at them to get a decent video, like they had for Everlong.

I’m not just putting this up because I think this is the best song written (by anyone) in the last 20 years. But I do.  The video is obviously low-budget (though I bet the space-age CGI effects cost a bundle) but it’s nice to see a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. I’ve met so many artists downtown that all take pains to look like the baddest mothers in the world. I’ve always found that the really talented, the really successful, are always the nicest and most irreverent of the bunch. And that’s what I like about the Foo Fighters videos, particularly ‘Learn To Fly’ (say what you will about the song; I know I do.) They genuinely don’t seem to give a shit about looking cool in an industry where being cool is literally what you sell.

Y’know what? Screw it. Let’s watch it. Bonus points for Tenacious D.

The Foos are an interesting case in general, really. Spawned as essentially a lark from some unused Nirvana studio time, Dave Grohl’s first record (on which he played every instrument) is a tour de force of FM-ready semi-grunge punk rock awesomeness. The other videos in this series show a band that doesn’t always remember their own material–which is great, because I forget my own songs all the damn time.

Amazing album. But not a formula they duplicated even once more. There are shades of the selftitled record on The Colour And The Shape, and in half of There Is Nothing Left To Lose, but honestly, since then, the band’s really become a single-driven radio monster… the next 2 records, One By One and Echoes… don’t have much to commend them, unless you’re really into the singles–in which case, just go see them live or buy the greatest hits. In Your Honor is a bit of an odd duck in the bunch, but, if you’re in the right mindset and skip over ‘The Last Song,’ a good duck.

No, the strength of the Foos is in the two first records–their self-titled is like peering into Dave’s warped little mind while he’s in the midst of breaking up with Nirvana, and The Colour And The Shape is just one of the strongest start-to-finish rock albums I’ve heard. These fine gentlemen know how to make an audience move, and I’m excited to hear the new album. I’ll probably buy it, even if I don’t really listen to it. I’ll definitely go see them if they come back to Toronto, though. They may be radio-rock juggernauts, but their songs are about a lot more than just porn star dancing and angst.

I feel almost obliged to admit, though, that every time I hear a Foo Fighters song, I remember getting onto the stage at the Molson Amphitheatre not long after I’d just seen them there. Standing centre stage, staring out at the empty seats, felt like exactly what it was: the other side of the coin, looking out instead of looking in. That’s what I think of when I think of the Foo Fighters. And maybe I liked that feeling enough to put up with this band, even at their most banal. But that’s definitely another story.

The only thing I’ll ever ask of you / Is you promise not to stop when I say when.

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