A Sonic Highway: 10 Super Songs From 20 YEARS of FOO FIGHTING…

Posted: November 21, 2014 in (Top) Lists, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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To mark the release of the Foo Fighters’ eighth studio album, Sonic Highways, The Burning Blogger picks what may be the 10 Best Songs from the band’s almost twenty-year career.

It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since Dave Grohl stepped out from the shadow of Nirvana to put together that first Foo Fighters album. A lot of music has been made in that time, some of it great, some of it not too memorable. The latest chapter in that story, Sonic Highways, has been released to mixed reviews; though no one could question the nobility of intent as far as the overall project is concerned.

Dave Grohl of course is a stickler for novelty when forging an album; 2011’s Wasting Light record eschewed the artificiality of modern digital recording and was recorded in Grohl’s garage in California using only old-fashioned analog equipment. This year’s Sonic Highways saw the band recording tracks in eight different US cities: Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York,  Washington, D.C, and of course Seattle (and accompanied by a very engaging eight-part documentary series shown on the BBC and HBO, which is well worth watching).

Some might call it gimmicky, but I like this approach of amplifying an album’s release by having an additional layer to it (depending on the artist and the nature of it, of course); it gives an album more of an extended aura to it, particularly in this extremely dull age in music. Wasting Light wasn’t a great album overall in my opinion, but the way it was recorded and the ethos and story around that process imparted something sympathetic to it, and Dave Grohl should be credited for trying to keep things interesting, trying to keep things fresh instead of simply plodding along like most other bands would be doing after twenty years.

It helps that everything Grohl does has the sense of both sincerity and likeability to it. In the current case of Sonic Highways, the recording in different cities was more a celebration and study of those cities’ musical traditions and legacies and thus in many ways the album feels more like a tribute to those musical cultures than anything. The documentaries are not Foo Fighters-centric at all.

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Whatever we may or not personally think of Grohl (a subject I covered at length in this post) – who appears to be the only rock star left in the world – his sincerity and innate likeability are the two things I immediately think of. Even from those long gone Nirvana days, he has always had the air of ultimately being a music fan and enthusiast always keen to pay dues to his own influences and heroes rather than an ego-led rock star believing his own hype. That’s the spirit that is generally to be found in these Sonic Highways films, as well as in the earlier (and superb) Sound City film.

It’s also the spirit that permeates most Foo Fighters activity in general and Grohl activity in particular and is one of the reasons I can never really belong to that Dave Grohl Resentment Society that seems to have developed over the years, even though I don’t consider myself a major Foo Fighters fan. The Grohlster is just too likeable; and for fuck’s sake, he was in Nirvana.

All of that said, however, on first listen Sonic Highways isn’t a particularly outstanding record, even if it has its moments (the single ‘Something From Nothing’ feels like one of the more epic things the Foos have done in their time). That seems the general trend of FF albums anyway; and in fact of successive releases by established acts. No band in its twentieth year is releasing mind-blowing albums; it’s one of the sad facts of life (and of getting older) that we have to come to terms with. But as ever, every FF album has at least two or three killer offerings.

In tribute to the band’s landmark two decades, here are 10 of the best from over the years

FOO FIGHTERS: 10 of the Best ——->

Feast and the Famine (2014, Sonic Highways): This might just be a momentary reaction; I may not think this track is that great in a few years time. But it’s top of my playlist for right now anyway and is probably the best offering of the new Sonic Highways album. It’s Foo Fighters doing what they do best – rocking out in full flow and making you want to join in. There’s no modern band I can think of – not with a mainstream profile anyway – that rocks out as infectiously as Foo Fighters.

This is a Call (1995, Foo Fighters): The first ever Foo Fighters single and the opener of that first Dave Grohl foray into the post-Nirvana world. Just pure, sweet-melodied, uplifting but hard-driven rock. I remember how much of a breath of fresh air this song was when I heard it in ’95. With the generally grim mood created by the way Nirvana ended, and the general glum nature of most of the best music I was listening to at the time, Dave Grohl launched his new band with a single that was upbeat and life-affirming; it puts a smile on the face to hear it even now.

Alone + Easy Target (1995, Foo Fighters): A classic, uncomplicated track from that eponymous debut album, was always one of my favorites. It was, however, the most Nirvana-esque song on that debut, partly due to the Kurt-like style of the chorus, though probably also largely due to Grohl’s drumming. Still always sounds great.

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Down in the Park (1996, The X-Files: Songs in the Key of X): A cover of a 1979 song written and produced by Gary Numan and the New Wave band Tubeway Army; the Foos version has always sounded brilliant. It helped that I was both a Foos fan and an X-Files enthusiast at the time, but the production and feel of this track seemed to capture that off-kilter, otherwordly vibe perfectly.

Watershed (1995, Foo Fighters): Pure, sonic, punk kick-arsery and the heaviest track on that 1995 release. Always brings down an avalanche of life into a live set-list. Never gets old. This is what they do best.

Enough Space: (1997, The Color and the Shape): Straight-up rock-out mode, albeit with a futurist, sci-fi feel, and an absolutely bad-ass bridge. Grohl’s chorus screams are epic. Back when I was watching him behind the drum-kit, I had never imagined he could do that.

White Limo (Wasting Light, 2011): ‘White Limo’ was the main song that drew me back to the Foo Fighters after a long spell of alienation. This fast-paced growl-monster was that album’s most kick-arse offering, making brilliant use of the band’s winning dual-guitar dynamics. You particularly notice how much Pat (Smear) seems to enjoy playing this song live. A wicked video to go with it too. Rock seldom gets a cool as this.

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Stacked Actors (2000, There’s Nothing Left to Lose): Addictive riff, great chorus; I don’t know why this song hasn’t been considered an FF standard. A scathing comment on the nature of fame and celebrity, it may or may not have been inspired by Grohl’s distaste for Courtney Love. A super-charged way to start an album; unfortunately that album didn’t get any better than this.

Wind Up: (1995, The Color and the Shape): Apparently written about the thorny relationship between musicians and journalists, this track from the Foos second album always excited me with its spidery lead-lines, hard-driving verses, pounding drums and cymbals. An amazing live number, not played often enough, and the best track on the album.

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Everlong (1995, The Color and the Shape): A bit of a cliche to include it, but Grohl’s permanently popular, bittersweet love song is just a really good single, regardless of its over-popularity with camera-phone flashing girl fans. The video is still absolutely classic too. Every time you think it’s a little too much on the soppy side and that you’re too cool for this song, just watch the video again – it’ll melt your defenses and win you back.

Those are the 10 tracks that make up the Burning Blogger ultimate Foo Fighters playlist; there were a handful of others that could’ve easily made this list too; which just proves that, regardless of how forgettable some of the Foo Fighters music has been over the years, they’ve also seriously done the business on plenty of occasions. Long may it continue.

 

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