Foo Fighters: hideously overrated

21:25, May 16 2011

The first Foo Fighters album - self-titled, essentially a one-man-band demos project by Dave Grohl - hinted at what might have happened on a future Nirvana album if Grohl had been allowed to contribute a few tunes (he had written some Nirvana songs, B-sides, not many). It's clear to see the influence of Kurt Cobain on Grohl as a songwriter. Grohl was young and eager. The Foo Fighters album shows that.

That album then needed to be toured so Foo Fighters became a live band and then The Colour and the Shape was released. It's one of the smartest, strongest rock albums from the first wave of post-grunge rock. I don't even know if it's all that smart - but it's big when it needs to be (My Hero). And even when it's big it's still got heart (My Hero, once again).

There are a handful of great tracks on the album, a double handful even. Monkey Wrench blasts from the speakers, Hey, Johnny Park! builds on some of the quirk-factor of the first album but is far more confident and Everlong is, to this day, Grohl's finest achievement (apart from his drum track on this Queens of the Stone Age song).

From there it was to There Is Nothing Left To Lose, which had the faux-anger of Stacked Actors to kick it off and then Learn To Fly which might have started the comparisons to the Foo Fighters being the Generation X/Y version of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (given Petty's Learning To Fly). And Grohl had helped out on the Heartbreakers drum stool too, of course. But his best songs aren't as good as Petty's worst.

Up to this point the Foo Fighters' career was impressive. Great videos, strong live performances and three albums released - one absolute classic bookended by one fairly strong album that suffered from a lack of polish and one almost-strong album that suffered due to its level of polishing.

That was over a decade ago.

Since then the band has essentially released the same album over and over. In 2002 they called it One By One, in 2005 they called it In Your Honour, which consisted of two discs, one of which was acoustic-based - or One By One Part Two and One By One Unplugged.  Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace followed in 2007 - aka One By One By One By One. And, a few weeks back the new album, Wasting Light, or One By One (Yet) Again, was released.

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Perhaps sensing that it was time to retell the story of the Foo Fighters, particularly as Grohl had gone from his Probot project and Queens of the Stone Age cameo to the forced "supergroup", Them Crooked Vultures, the advance press for the new album focused on how it was back to the sound of The Colour and the Shape.

People lapped up the story of it being recorded in the garage; a snippet of the original (analogue) tape was included with each CD. Pah!

Wasting Light a) contains nothing memorable at all and therefore b) sounds nothing like The Colour and the Shape.

I don't hold a candle for The Colour and the Shape but I gave it a listen again recently and it still stands up. Something no other Foo Fighters album manages to do.

Foo Fighters albums exist to be played on The Rock. Foo Fighters albums exist to be played by people who have no idea what good, strong rock music is. Foo Fighters albums exist because Dave Grohl is laughing at how they are lapped up. Foo Fighters albums exist because Grohl's  jump-behind-the-kit-and-jam-with-anyone mentality has reached its logical conclusion.

Dave Grohl is a good drummer - he's better serving a song behind the kit than he is when placed anywhere else on stage. But Dave Grohl is not at all one of the great drummers. He is above adequate; highly skilled even. He is no innovator. He might deserve two thumbs up for walking away from one of the most iconic and important bands of the last 25 years - and the last rock band that really mattered. But then, it might have been better if he'd just let his playing in Nirvana be his legacy.

Foo Fighters won't be remembered for any of their music. Some of their early videos might still get a chuckle. It was very good of the band to do some fundraising recently - sure. And they often seem like nice, funny guys in their interviews. But they haven't written a memorable song since 1997.

And I'm probably being very generous suggesting that Everlong - a perfectly strong song but in no way a classic - would even teeter on the lip of the time capsule.

I probably should have included this as part of Friday's list of I Am the Only One Who Thinks statements.

So, that said, am I the only one who thinks the Foo Fighters is a colossally overrated one-trick-pony of a band? Am I the only one thinks that - as with Shihad - the band has got worse with every album after an early peak? Am I the only one who thinks that this band will not be remembered in years to come and if they are well, that's an ever sadder case for music?

And am I the only one who thinks that Dave Grohl is trading on that Nirvana-kudos; on the fact that he walked away from a hugely important band at a young age and lived to tell another tale so people think that he's some kind of hero? Ah, if only that tale of his was worth telling...am I right?

Or am I the only that thinks that Foo Fighters are one of the most overrated bands of the last decade?  (I say last decade, because really it's their 2002-2011 output that didn't need to happen).

What do you think of Foo Fighters? And if you're a fan what do you think is so good about the band? What are you favourite albums/songs? And what do you think of that new turkey, Wasting Light? It sounds like the feelers if you ask me.

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