On the 10th of November Foo Fighters released their 10th album, ed Sonic Highways. Much has been made about how much music sales are down in 2014, prescription and thus far only one album has gone platinum, Taylor Swift’s 1989. Sonic Highways though, will probably change this situation by going platinum. It suits the Foo Fighters to be in the company of Taylor Swift. Like Swift, the Foo Fighters success is based on a recycled, well tested formulae of generic lyrics, a middle of the road sound and a refusal to commit to any form of genre. Swift, to her credit, has taken a risk and made a synthpop album. The Foo Fighters, as per, have played it safe.
Dave Grohl is a pretty ubiquitous presence in music now. Flick on a documentary about Fleetwood Mac, and there he is talking about how much Rumours effected him as a pre teen. Stumble upon a special about Motorhead, and there he is again, talking about how much heavy metal meant to him as a teenager. In a documentary about hardcore punk he’ll talk about how heavy metal left him cold, and how punk rock was a his gateway into music. Watch something about stadium rawk monsters Van Halen, and there’s Grohl saying, with glee, that Van Halen where the biggest band in the world for him. The man seems to be everywhere these days. He’s the goofy, affable, fun loving guy that’s the same as the rest of us. At every awards ceremony he’ll thump his chest and intone that the music he makes is “real music”, that was bashed out in his “garage” (a garage which, incidentally, contains a recording console, purchased for about one million dollars, from Sound City recroding studios), and how he didn’t need any drum machines or sythesisers or computers to make his music. If Taylor Swift is America’s musical sweetheart, then Grohl must surely be the male equivalent. He makes a point to try and show us how much like us he is, how normal and down to earth he actually is, how he’s the “nicest man in rock”. He does this with unnerving consistency as well, to a point where it comes across as being very calculated. This leaves one feeling very cold and
None of this would really matter if the Foo Fighters where able to let their music talk for them. Morrissey, Jack White, Kanye West and Thom Yorke, to use a few examples, don’t even try to be nice, and could instead be called arrogant, rude, egoistical and self-indulgent, but they don’t have to, because they have music to back it up. They take risks, they do things that might not (and in some cases, such as Yorke and White’s releases this year, don’t) work. Grohl plays things safe time after time. There’s nothing wrong with going from listening to motorhead after listening to Fleetwood Mac, but it’s a terrible idea trying to appeal to fans of both of those genres. It’s a terrible idea to try and appeal to fans full stop. Once an artists decides to give the fans what they want, they’ve stopped creating for the reasons that they should. Again, there isn’t really an express problem with this; if people are willing to listen to this turgid boring middle of the road rock then that’s there choice. A band like that shouldn’t be the biggest band in the world though. The Foo Fighters sell out stadiums, headline festivals and sell millions of records in an era where rock bands don’t really do that anymore.
Much has been said this year about how Rock, as a genre, is on its last legs, and when the Foo Fighters are the biggest band in the world it’s very easy to see why. Innovation is the driving force for any genre, and the best rock bands, be they Guns n Roses, Joy Division, The Stooges, the White Stripes, have always strived to do something different to what’s come before the. Due to the lack of commercial interest, bands like that struggle to exist now, which is effectively killing the genre.
When asked for his thoughts on Taylor Swift’s (fairly ballsy) decision to take her music off Spotify, Grohl said that he doesn’t “give a fuck”, because at this stage he’s made his money and it doesn’t affect him. For a man who claims to be keeping a genre alive, that’s certainly an odd position to take.
By Adam Duke