Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Post In Which I Defend Dave Grohl and Sonic Highways

Lots of backlash directed towards Dave Grohl’s Sonic Highways doc on HBO.  The complaints seem to be:  
a) The Foo Fighters suck. 
    b) Dave Grohl conflates his importance in rock history by placing himself next to   those more worthy of adoration (e.g. Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Rick Nielsen,  Buddy Guy).  

c) This documentary project is a nothing more than a cloying, self-serving attempt to sell records.

I can’t get behind the backlash.  

Though I’m not a fan of the Foo Fighters, I actually have a lot of respect for Grohl.  This is a guy who seems genuinely humbled by the success he has had.  He seems to have a clear sense of where he’s from and who were seminal influences in his life.  He seems genuinely interested in shining a light on and paying his respects to those who paved the way for his success.

What this means, is that you have a national show on HBO where a decent amount of time is spent talking about post-punk, hardcore, and the American underground scene of the mid-80s.  Why people from that scene feel a need to trash talk Grohl seems nothing short of bizarre.

I’ve only watched two episodes of the series so far, but the Chicago episode spends lots of time giving Steve Albini his props and showcasing the likes of Naked Raygun.  Let me say that again.  Naked Raygun!  Naked Raygun, a band that for all intents and purposes is a footnote in rock history, not only gets a ton of exposure on an HBO show, but they are afforded the same respect as blues legends like Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters.

So, why are we made at Dave Grohl? Because he’s successful?  Because he’s taken a different path over the last 20 years than a bunch of crusty old punks who didn’t have his success?  Whatever.  I don’t have a beef.  He’s making a doc about rock history and he’s doing it from the perspective of someone my age, who has a similar set of musical touchstones.  These types of big historical rock docs have always had too much of a boomer perspective for my likes, and I’m excited to see such an undertaking crystallized through a punk rock lens.

Is this doc just a fatuous sell-job for the new Foo Fighters record? Maybe.  But what do I care?  Selling records ain’t what it used to be. If this is Grohl’s way to stay relevant and move units, so be it.  Why get mad at an artists for trying a different approach to stay in the public eye.

Like I said, I’ve only seen two episodes so far.  Will they all be decent?  Who knows.  But I hear he jams with Joe Walsh at some point.  I can’t wait.  Ya dig!

1 comment:

Chris McMahon said...

Very well stated. I read the cheap little take-down piece in the Pretender and laughed out loud. It sounds like something I would have put together when I was a bitter 18-year old jackass.

Foo Fighters are not a little indie rock band taking on the world. Grohl out grew that a long time ago. They are a mainstream hard rock outfit that makes music that does't make me want to check what's on NPR.

And Grohl seems like a good guy. He has a way of making that band seem bigger than life and NOT all about him. As a music snob, I frequently find common ground in my appreciation of Foo Fighters.