How NOT to write about music – 139. Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl

I have cracked. I have grown to like Foo Fighters through osmosis.

Osmosis: the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc. “By some strange political osmosis, private reputations became public”

It happened yesterday morning, on the way back from Brighton after dropping the children off at school. Idly flicking the radio on, turning down the country roads of Sussex, 10 Minute Takeover at 9 am, someone’s choice was this, from the 2007 album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.

I found myself furious, emboldened, thumping the dashboard and throatily singing along with the chorus and meaning every word.

What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?
What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender

Worn down by exposure over the years, trapped by compartmentalisation and the routine of The Daily Commute (approaching 18 months now), no way out, no way forward; I could relate to Dave Grohl’s words absolutely. I had become precisely just like the others, trapped in an Orwellian nightmare present, the social media dystonia, the online bubble we never break free of… converse to what Dave is bawling here, I have said I will surrender, I have said I am just another play. His voice is fake, I can hear that. A little kid still trying on big sister’s shoes. Doesn’t matter.  My interpretation is enough. The song represents an outlet, a way out from an intolerable situation that I see no way out of. Hence my discharge of anger, my empathy.

My interpretation, not his intention.

I could never feel this with Foo Fighters before, not past the first two albums anyway when me and Dave were angry about everything post-Kurt’s death and we hadn’t sorted shit out. Then, his music made sense to me… but he started becoming more and more powerful and me less and less so and so I stopped relating. (Why would I? Surely I do not despise myself so much, to consider myself just like the others.) Two reasons: his band have always been paint-by-numbers – a little from Column A (Wings) here, a little from Column B (Led Zeppelin) there – and while that is sometimes fine for me, our shared history makes it hard for me to take. Also, Dave himself – he ain’t part of the common herd, he doesn’t suffer The Daily Commute, he is a fucking rock star. That is him. That is what he does. He is not us. These lyrics mean shit.

But but BUT!, the critic screams to himself, rock music has never been about truth but trust – the interpretation, always. I wouldn’t level the same criticism at Gorillaz. Why would I? It’d be meaningless.

The song makes a lot less sense away from my car: it is not designed to be listened to on headphones but live and LOUD.

At least they’re not the fucking Smashing Pumpkins.

I was asked by The Guardian in 2015 to cover the Foo Fighters’ Suncorp Stadium show: I warned my editor there was a possibility my report could be unfavourable. My editor replied she was aware of it. I took a professional approach to the assignment that belied my years of being Everett “not” True, and listened to the Foos’ Greatest Hits compilation several times… and realised there are indeed a handful of Foo Fighters songs that I do not find mediocre. (Including in all likelihood this one, as it is very McCartney-esque and that is an aspect I like about Grohl’s songwriting). The review was not to be, though.

Foo Fighters’ management heard I was down to review the show and banned me from the arena. This set in play a hilarious sequence of events which unfolded like this…

What I did tonight instead of seeing Foo Fighters play live

Sometimes forgettable, always horrible… Foo Fighters live in Brisbane

When nice people make horrible music | the collected Facebook Foo Fighters vitriol

Well done knob gobbler | The homophobic wit and wisdom of Foo Fighters fans

Do not mess with the critic, deutschbags. The critic is always right


How NOT to write about music – 6. Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice 1

Thank god organisations like the Hyundai Mercury Prize committee exist. (Now, why would you think I am being sarcastic?)

Without them, I may have never heard this wonderful slice of dimly-lit backstreet romance.

And that’s it. A tip of the ET fedora to the Hyundai judges for bringing this to my attention.

Also, I would far rather impassioned indie rockers winning a meaningless industry accolade than the retro-classicism of Nadine Shah any day.

Wolf Alice remind me of two favourites from the early 2000s – Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia and Life Without Buildings. With some Northern Gothic leanings and bog-standard indie guitars thrown in, obv.

On the other hand Nadine Shah’s band play bad, deliberately. Now, I’m not the sort to be put off by conventional notions of ‘bad’ – you can trust me on this. But a band playing deliberately bad, with all the attendant assumptions they are making by doing so? That annoys me, almost more than the fact her music has clearly been designed by consensus. What do indie bands do these days, sit down with their producer and show them their pantheon of a dozen post-punk albums from 1978 and 1979 and say “that’s precisely how we want our new record to sound?” Now, why the FUCK would they do that?

While I am here, why is the “consensus” among my critical peers that Nadine Shah should have won. Yes, we know critics (and Hyundai judges) love PJ Harvey but they don’t need to vote for her every year, especially if she hasn’t released an album. Should have, because this is the music they are familiar with and feel comfortable around? Nah.There is no should have to it. Thank you, Chris.

wolf alice

I do however feel that Simon may have a point as well. Always be suspicious of any band that opens for Foo Fighters.

Plus ça change.

Note to aspiring blog writers: do not criticise. Never criticise.

Link: an interesting insider account on the Mercury Prize 2018 from former judge and new BIMM London Music Journalism tutor Elisa Bray.