I have a hard time believing that Our Lord and Savior Tom Brady has been excelling at professional football in the National Football League for almost fifteen years now. I also have similar difficulties in accepting that the first decade of the 2000’s actually happened, that President George W. Bush actually happened and that Saved By the Bell behind the scenes movie actually happened.
Somethings in life just don’t seem believable. And it’s not because it’s hard to believe they could happen, but because it’s hard to believe they did happen.
Case in point, the Foo Fighters have been around for almost twenty years. Twenty years! They’re almost old enough to drink! How the hell did this happen? Didn’t Kurt Cobain just die yesterday? How is that he apparently didn’t and Dave Grohl’s next band have released eight albums and become The American Rock Band.
It just seems crazy to me.
It just doesn’t seem like they’ve been around that long.
It just doesn’t seem possible.
But apparently it is- a fact that was brought to my attention amidst the hullabaloo created by the release of the band’s latest album and corresponding HBO mini-series, Sonic Highways.
Twenty years. Of the Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters have been around for twenty years.
That statement makes zero sense to me.
First off, a person of my ilk and age, still kind of, sort of defines Foos’ frontman Dave Grohl as the drummer for Nirvana. That is how he was introduced to us, that is how we came to know him and frankly, that is how we remember him. So the idea that someone as iconic as Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana, would ever morph into any other musical role seems wildly far-fetched. Now Nirvana only existed for a few years, they were like a comet, so while it certainly seems plausible that a member of the band would be primed for a second act, it also totally doesn’t because I know for me, it feels like Nirvana were around for a lot longer than they actually were. They were so gigantic. You look back now and the fact that Nirvana released as few albums as they did seems as hard to fathom as the fact that the Foo Fighters are on the verge of turning twenty. Doesn’t it seem like Nirvana released five or six albums- three of which were legendary, one or two of which were borderline legendary and one of which was pre-legendary? Instead Nirvana did release five albums, but it feels more like two or three, with a bonus fourth album (MTV Unplugged in New York.) They dominated the world for three years (1991-1994.) Three years of Nirvana to twenty of the Foo Fighters but to many of us Dave Grohl is more Nirvana than Foo. Formative years will do that to you.
Okay, so that’s really the main reason why twenty years of the Foo Fighters is hard to believe. Their lead singer to a portion of the population is the head-banging drummer of one of the greatest rock bands ever, not the head-banging singer and guitarist for one of the most popular rock bands ever.
Second acts aren’t supposed to exist in America. F. Scott Fitzgerald said so and he’s smart, so it must be true. Dave Grohl could have kept playing music after Nirvana, but it should have been in the margins, not on the main stages. Can you even think of another situation similar to Grohl’s- where someone goes from a enormously popular band to another enormously popular band? An initial comparison could be drawn between Grohl and Paul McCartney- Sir Paul left the smoldering ruins of the Beatles for Wings. But he played similar roles in both bands. Grohl went from drums in Nirvana to guitar and lead vocals in the Foo Fighters, a much more significant leap.
Other people Grohl could be compared to:
Damon Albarn: went from Brit pop band Blur to trip hop, hip hop “group” Gorillaz
Jeff Tweedy: after alt country band Uncle Tupelo broke up, formed alt country band Wilco
Chris Cornell: Soundgarden broke up, went solo, then teamed up with members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave before going back to Soundgarden
Slash: exiled from Guns ‘n Roses, formed Velvet Revolver with members of Guns and Scott Weiland, the former singer of Stone Temple Pilots
Grohl still wins out though because it all goes back to the switch in roles. That’s a big thing. Dave Grohl went from big-time rock ‘n roll drummer to big time rock ‘n roll frontman. That jump is hard to pull off. It’s hard to just be one of those things, let alone two. Dave Grohl is a rock ‘n roll slight of hand artist.
Now on to the Foo Fighters…
Have they been taken for granted?
I thought about this all weekend, from the moment I realized that they had been around for almost twenty years until now. I am effectively split between failing to grasp the length of their career and struggling to comprehend a world without the Foo Fighters. They’ve just always been there, releasing good, honest rock records. They never really took the weird turn Pearl Jam did at the end of the nineties/early 00’s, blew up amidst their own success like Oasis did or were forced to release course correction albums every handful of years like Weezer continues to do. Bringing it back to Tom Brady- the Foo Fighters are the Tom Brady of rock ‘n roll- steady, consistent and reliable.
I believe Tom Brady has been taken for granted. Thus, I believe the Foo Fighters have been taken for granted.
There are knocks on the Foos, the main one being the knock of…well, all of their albums do kind of sound the same. And that’s fine. But shut up, they sound like sweet American rock ‘n roll. Get over it. Stick with Jack White if you want a rock ‘n roll enigma. The Foo Fighters are loud guitars, hammering drums and howling vocals. Time and time again that is what they are, it’s what the excel at, what we’ve come to expect from them. It’s nothing they should be faulted for. If shit had gotten stale along the way, then yeah, go ahead and throw some stones. But shit never has, so save it.
Currently on HBO, you can watch the Dave Grohl-helmed mini-series, Sonic Highways, in which Grohl and his band mates travel to eight musically iconic American cities, learning about that town’s musical history, frequenting it’s famed haunts and recording a tune in one of it’s more iconic recording studies. It’s incredibly entertaining television- makes me want to immediately run to the garage and bang on some drums. I’ve always been a Grohl fan because of his unabashed and unapologetic love for what he’s doing. He loves being in a rock band and isn’t afraid to show it. That is something I always appreciate- regardless of the medium. I don’t want you to be afraid to let it slip that dude, you’re having a great effin’ time and Grohl never does. In some ways I find it interesting because he’s essentially become the kind of musician Cobain hated and was worried he was going to become. But Grohl always looked to be enjoying himself, even back in the Nirvana days. So it shouldn’t be a shock that as the years have gone on, his love for playing music would only continue to grow.
The Foo Fighters have been around twenty effin’ years.
You know the Foo Fighters. The drummer from Nirvana is in the band.
They’re pretty sick.
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