Dave Grohl is guilty of ‘betraying one’s punk rock roots.’ A high crime in my book.
So what, you say? There are a million shitty bands that aren’t worth paying attention to. And life is too short to waste your breath on something one deems not worthy, correct? Well, you’d be right about that, but Dave Grohl was in Nirvana! And Nirvana was my favorite band. Ever. Of all time. As such Dave spent years in close proximity to my favorite artist.
Like a Vietnam vet, “He was there, man!”
Consider reading the first installment of a new fictional piece I am writing Kurt Cobain Lives In 1994 Kurt Cobain faked his own suicide. 22 years later he’s ending his self-imposed exile.
A quick caveat before you finish reading this piece. I am less anti-Dave Grohl than I am pro-Kurt Cobain. If you are interested in Nirvana, consider reading this other piece concerning my favorite band here. Or perhaps this one, Kurt Cobain was NOT a retard fucker, here.
And while I have chosen to ignore the Foo Fighters whenever possible, Dave has done a pretty great job this past year of making that difficult. Between Nirvana’s induction into the Rock & Roll hall of fame, the release of Dave’s “Sound City” documentary and the bloated HBO series “Sonic Highways” that accompanies the new Foo Fighters record, he’s fucking everywhere.
I’m a generous dude though. I’ll freely admit it’s not Dave’s fault he’s a toolbox. He’s just a person with, I assume, good intentions, going through life doing the best he can. That said, even though I know the following statement is untrue, it’s my gut reality and the one that is spilling forth into this article; Dave Grohl’s career post Nirvana besmirches Kurt Cobain’s legacy. I can’t help but think that Kurt would have nothing to do with Dave were he alive.
Of course, Kurt took care of what Kurt thinks a long time ago and despite it being a futile exercise to imagine otherwise, I’m still pretty confident he would think the Foo Fighters suck and that Dave should stick to drumming.
Hey! It’s my article and I can write what I want.
In order to understand my emotional logic you need to understand the moral compass I’m working with, and it’s the same one put forward by Kurt Cobain.
Punk rock is music to rebel by. Punk is an impassioned cry against the status quo, against the mainstream dumbed down, un-nuanced perspective on all things as propagated by “the man.” Personally, it’s also a rejection of homophobia and chauvinism and corporate greed.
That may be an idealistic and juvenile conception of punk, but that was how Kurt saw it too. Ironically that definition also posed the central philosophical difficulty Kurt Cobain had with his fame, popularity and wealth. Those things placed him in direct opposition to his punk rock ideals. The thing – punk rock – that had sustained him, that nurtured him and gave him strength, he had suddenly somehow become the antithesis of.
Growing up Kurt felt like an outsider. He felt shamed and abused by the popular kids, the townies and the jocks for being different. He glommed onto punk rock for a sense of validation. And he got it. Punk was his salvation, the one true thing in his life. I grew up that way too. Punk was the validation of my – admittedly juvenile – perception of the world. Dave Grohl pays lip service to that sentiment in his HBO series. He describes a transformative trip as a young teenager to Chicago where he saw a Naked Raygun show. It’s his first hardcore show and a revelation of democratic music making for him, his first exposure to punk’s D.I.Y. ethos.
For a young person, such as myself, armed with the pre-assembled tenets (of punk), people, ideas and things were easily classifiable. If you liked punk or hip-hop, you were cool. If you liked sports or Motley Crüe, you were uncool. I wanted nothing to do with uncool. Life – what to think, how to act – was tied up neatly. I could classify all things quickly and move on with my day.
With age, however comes an appreciation for nuance, an ability to view things with a degree of perspective, empathy even. You realize not everything can be simply black or white. Still, in regard to this issue, to my ears arrested in adolescence as they might be, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters sound like corporate bro rockers. In short, they suck.
I feel justified in using my teenage logic in this case. If I can’t apply it here, to a lament for my favorite band, then where can I apply it?
I have never followed the Foo Fighters with any zeal, but the singles from pretty much every album through the years (and they’ve been going for a lot of years) have consistently reached me. I just never thought much of them one-way or the other. I didn’t find them disdainful. I even liked one or two along the way, found them hum-along-able on the radio. I figured everyone has to make a living, even the former drummer for Nirvana.
But then this past year you just couldn’t shake Dave Grohl. He was freaking everywhere. As such, it was only recently that I decided he’s liable for the ‘betrayal of one’s punk rock roots’ on multiple levels.
His live performances are a good example. I’ve had the misfortune of watching several clips on youtube of him playing to packed arenas. He just won’t shut up! He’s an anecdote-telling, mother-loving-happy-birthday-singing, anti-bully-advocating ringmaster between one overwrought, sanctimonious song and the next. In contrast, Kurt didn’t talk between songs. It was all about the music for him. Anything beyond a “thank you,” or, “this is a new one,” was rare. It’s abundantly clear that Dave likes to hear himself scream, “Let’s Rock!” with a Tourette’s-esque frequency.
My cardinal rule in regards to musical evaluation is dependent on where the music originates in a human being. Is it “true” to the person who is channeling it? Actually that’s true for most art. If a person is speaking their truth, whatever that might be – and however it is that that person chooses to speak it – then I can respect it. Maybe not like it or enjoy it, but respect it. With this tenet as my guide, Dave’s soul is full of fermented cheese and the overwhelming desire to “RAWK BRO!”
Then there’s the HBO show, “Sonic Highways.” What a mess. They start with the premise that America has quite a few locally grown musical traditions. Fair enough. I’d even go so far as to say documenting those local traditions is a good thing, because as with all things local, they are no doubt doomed to extinction by the rapacious appetite of internet culture. I love the history part of the show. I love that younger people – if they happen to watch the show on their parent’s “HBO-GO” account – will get to hear about music they might not otherwise be aware of.
Dave and the producers, also do a serviceable job of highlighting some legitimately under-appreciated scenes and musicians, the blues players in Chicago or the Go Go music scene in DC for example. Of course there are myriad bands, players and scenes that get missed, but that feels built in to the endeavor. Somebody will always be unhappy in that respect. That’s not to say I don’t quibble with some of the decisions made in the editorial department, it’s just in comparison to the series’ other issues, it wouldn’t be my primary beef.
The problem is that Dave and the Foos inject themselves into it in such a cheesy way. They juxtapose themselves in relation to these noble musical traditions – via the studio they record in that week – and it stinks of hubris. The first quarter of the show is spent framing Dave and the rest of the band in fashion-shoot-esque scenarios. Say staring balefully at their reflections in subway car glass or walking in adverse weather set to a melancholy Foo soundtrack. It gets worse from there, with the majority of the episode dedicated to the band writing and recording a song influenced by the given place they are profiling. At which point Dave gloms onto some stand-alone phrase uttered by one of the musicians profiled in the episode and makes it a lyric for the song they cut that week.
For example one of the blues players profiled in the Chicago episode, Buddy Guy says in the course of his interview that he went “looking for a dime and found a quarter,” regarding his search for a life as a musician in Chicago. Sure enough by the end of the episode Dave is shrieking the phrase over and over again in the Chicago “influenced” song, “Something from Nothing.”
That song by the way, being the first from the album to be debuted, is epic in its bloated musical indulgence. It’s a massive undertaking of over-ornamentation and mega-power-rocking.
And to claim the song is “influenced” by what the band “experienced” in their week in a famed Chicago studio? What a bunch of hooey! That song has got about as much to do with Chicago as I do because I’ve eaten a deep-dish pizza. Every song I’ve heard – and I admit I haven’t heard all of them – strikes me as an overwrought exercise in paint-by-numbers song writing.
Music should come from organic – not forced – inspiration. Not if you want it to have any gravitas or truth to it. The show’s concept is a flawed exercise, saccharine out of the gate.
Kurt is spinning in his grave, the poor guy. He’s lamenting what he has wroth upon us. Can you imagine him writing a song influenced by New Orleans? No, you can’t, because he’d rather blow his head off first. Which is, in the end, why you are here if you’ve made it this far. If it hasn’t bled through to you yet, then I’ll spell it out; my true beef isn’t with Dave Grohl. Yeah, he sucks and he’s a cheese ball, but then most people suck and are cheese balls. I don’t like to go negative, but Dave can take it I’m sure – plus he’ll never read it.
The true premise of this article is that the wrong member of Nirvana died. I’m resentful that we have to listen to the Foo Fighters instead of Nirvana.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Dave Grohl is a cheese dick and should really hang it up. Surely you have enough dough to retire at this point, don’t you, Dave?
That other Nirvana piece is here. Thanks for reading.