Thursday, December 04, 2014

Sonic Drive Through

There are a lot of people who don't like Dave Grohl. I get it. He was in Nirvana, and if he had any sense of polite decorum, he would have taken his opportunity to ride off into the sunset as the drummer of that pioneering rock band, surfacing only long enough to accept honorary awards and to bask in the polite glow of the fame he enjoyed as one of the grungiest of the grungy. Instead, he took his energy and talents to a new group: Foo Fighters. For many Grohl-haters, this wasn't the worst thing. The worst thing was that he sold records. He made money. Lots of it.
That's usually when art starts making people mad: when wads of cash start getting in the way. If those piles of dough aren't obscured by someone's ego. And then there's the whole pop music problem. Once you get popular, you start to lose that cred that you've been building all those years as a starving/struggling artist. Mister Grohl has jammed with Paul McCartney, and a great many other dinosaurs of rock. He's just asking to be kicked. But that's why I like him. He seems truly invested in what the kids call "rock and roll." Some of them, anyway. He knows his roots, and to show it, he took his band on a cross-country zig-zag trip to immerse them in it. The result, a record and an HBO mini-series, is called "Sonic Highways." Stopping in eight different cities, Dave and the rest of the Foos soaked up the local history and culture before recording a song in these very different locales: Chicago, Washington D.C., Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle and New York. Those who would knock the Foo Fighters' attempts at expanding their (and by extension our) understanding of the roots of the rock they are playing are the same ones who would pick the nits on any of the albums from their catalog, so if you were looking for something completely new or revelatory, you could probably just skip on to the next really cool thing that nobody else has ever heard of. The real treat for me in watching this show was listening to the song that Dave wrote to celebrate each of the cities he and the band visited. Sure, they sound like Foo Fighters songs, but they open up a door to the influences that made each one special. I knew there was a punk scene in Washington D.C., for example, but it was via "Sonic Highways" that I learned about the "go-go" school of funk that sprouted from our nation's capitol in the sixties and seventies. Instead of focusing on the corporate machine that makes music in Los Angeles, Dave took us to Rancho De Luna, where weird records were made by even weirder people.
I could go on and on, justifying my love for all things Grohl and Foo, but if you have already made up your mind, what's the point? If you haven't, and you'd like to see and hear where the music from the past century came from, tune in or take a listen. You might like what you find.

No comments: