Me: Thirty-eight year old with a fondness for the Beatles, Al Green, and the Sex Pistols.My son: Fourteen year old who pretends to like my music.Scene 1: He and I in the car with the radio on.(Fade in…”This Is A Call” is playing…)Me: Who is this band?Son: The Foo Fighters.Me: Who?(Long silence)Me: These guys aren’t bad.Scene 2: He, his friend and I delivering bags of leaves for the annual townhouse community clean-up. The radio is on.(Fade in…”Big Me” is playing…)Me: Is this the Foo Fighters?Son: Yeah.Me (noticing the bevy of eye-poppingly nice female teenaged units who have eyed our mini-van now that the sliding door has been opened and they can hear the music): Cool.Scene 3: I’m sprawled on the Lay-Z-Boy in the living room, in a stupor, watching a Saturday Night Live rerun.(Fade in: The Foo Fighters are rockin’ like it’s WAY PAST 1999)Me: Is this off that Foo Fighters album?Son: Yeah.Me: What song is this? It rocks!Son (smiles, knowingly): For All The Cows.
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The Foo Fighters self titled debut is really a Dave Grohl solo album. He sings, he plays guitars, he drums (duh). It’s his work, and it’s pretty impressive.
So, does it sound like Nirvana? At times. “I’ll Stick Around” works the soft/loud formula into a perfect modern rock song. “Weenie Beenie” and “Wattershed” are cacophonous slices of punk that aren’t too far removed from some of Nirvana’s less radio friendly stuff.
But Dave certainly has his own muse as well. “Big Me” is a breezy, bubblegum pop song that definetly wouldn’t have fit on any Nirvana record. He also ventures into power pop (the incredibly catchy “This is a Call”) and even jazz (mainly the opening verse of “For All the Cows”).
Other highlights include the lush, dreamy “Floaty”, the raging rocker “Alone & Easy Target”, and the pensive “Exhausted”.
Although “The Colour and the Shape” and “There Is Nothing Left To Lose” are slightly more consistent overall, this is a terrific album from a talented multi-musician.
Best Songs: This is a Call, Floaty, Exhausted, Alone & Easy Target, I’ll Stick Around.
Dave Grohl wanted the Foo Fighters debut, which, as every punk and their grandmother can attest, was written and performed almost entirely by Grohl — Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs contributes a guitar track to “X-Static” — to stand on its own merits. When “Foo Fighters” first debuted, Grohl was quoted as saying, he wanted to do everything possible to distance himself from the success of his former band, to avoid the Foos being viewed as a cash cow Nirvana spin-off as so many other bands from the era were being lambasted.
He probably just didn’t expect those merits to win him a Grammy or two and leave him at the virtual top of the modern rock pyramid. And honestly, listening to this record as out-of-context-ly as possible, it’s difficult to imagine that the Foo Fighters’ sound could mutate into the quintessential “modern rock” sound at all.
“Weenie Beenie” and “Watershed” are acidic bursts of punk charged with theatrical but, befitting the punk style, ultimately simple, guitar flourishes. It’s hard to imagine anyone but the most baroquely annoying old farts claiming them to be “immature” and “for teenagers only” — as the old saying goes, if it’s too loud, then you’re too old.
However, as with any Nirvana record, “Foo Fighters” possesses an ear for buttery, swirling pop rivaling the best the 1960s had to offer.
Cobain and Grohl always seemed to share a lot of the same ideas about making music. It was the little differences that set them apart. Where Cobain’s instantly recognizable, cigarette-choked voice was more akin to biting hot cider, lending a punk edge to pieces like “About a Girl,” where he was otherwise belting out a decidedly Beatles-esque melody, Grohl’s vocals on the poppier Foos songs are warm, syrupy and squeaky clean in the grand tradition of 60’s pop. “Big Me” sounds nearly vintage, and its memorable, self-deprecating video (the Mentos commercial spoof) was a valiant way of saving face and street cred.
Elsewhere lie underground classics like “Exhausted,” with its comparably lo-fi My Bloody Valentine-esque lake of guitar feedback paving the way for a classic rock/metal bridge part, and the aptly-named “Floaty” which glides first on a lilting acoustic chord progression and then soars on the same chords distorted. Then there’s the amped-up blues of “For All The Cows,” the “silly” song Dave always tried to perform for audiences like Howard Stern (who veto’d it in favor of “Everlong”), the George Harrison tribute “Oh, George,” the heart-thumping rock ‘n’ roll of “Good Grief” … by the time you’re done, you’ve named every song on the album as a standout.
Put simply, every song here does standout as unique from all the others in every way but one — they all have the Foo Fighters sonic signature stamped proudly on their foreheads.
This is a classic — the album I stack each and every successive Foos album up against. Each is good in its own way, but none of them can keep up with “Foo Fighters” and its rabid, fast-paced diversity of style.
On October 17, 1994, Dave Grohl headed to a Seattle studio with the intent of recording just another demo tape.
This was something he had been in the habit of doing for the past 4 years as a way to kill time when he was on break from his “other” band, NIRVANA. The only difference was, this time for Grohl, the break was permanent.
NIRVANA’s magical reign on top of the rock and music world had abruptly ended with the death of Kurt Cobain, the band’s frontman, earlier that year. For months, Grohl had been devastated, unable to bring himself to think about music again.
But now, here he was. With his old friend and long time personal producer Barrett Jones by his side, he returned to Robert Lang’s Studios, where NIRVANA’s final recording session had taken place that January. For the next 6 days, Grohl and Jones, with (a little) help from Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, recorded approximately 15 songs that Grohl had been working on while he had been a member of NIRVANA. A demo tape of this work then was circulated amongst Grohl’s friends and peers within the industry.
The buzz was off-the-charts.
Everyone that heard the tape begged Grohl for more, and were shocked to find out he had been doing this for years on his own. Suddenly, the guy who had been “lucky enough to not be the next drummer replaced by Kurt” had people yelling at him to start his own band.
After some time, Grohl obliged, and to appease the hype, decided that by January of 1995, he would release twelve songs off the demo tape as the self-titled release of his not-yet-existent-band, the Foo Fighters, and then rushed off to recruit bandmates before that. But that is another story. The album/demotape itself?
Hands-down, this is the best Foo Fighters album ever released.
While some may argue it lacks the emotion and personal feel of the band’s sophomore release, I respond that this release was spurred on by death (as opposed to separation/divorce in the other album’s case) and consequentially has more raw feeling to it than anything that would ever follow. It was also the result of four years of tinkering, refining, and creative development by one person, which makes it much more focused (as opposed to two years of work and 3-4 other people in the 2nd album’s case, making it much less focused).
This is a very cryptic, lyrically abstract album, a popular trend by the standards of 1994 but a dying technique in today’s mainstream music as the average music listener is sadly becoming dumber and dumber. As a result artists need to dumb their lyrical content down to connect with their audience. Fortunately, Grohl has penned a guide to his songs’ lyrical content, and that was of great assistance in this review. However, it is quite obvious in the guide that he is purposely silent on some songs because for years, this album has been rightfully been rumored to be about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.
The album starts off with a soft melody, that quickly jumps into a fast-paced, feel-good NIRVANA-esque song entitled “This Is A Call.” Grohl pounds the drums with joy, but pounds the guitar and bass with equal aggression. According to Dave, this song is a “shout-out” to everyone he ever knew, and is somewhat of a “thank you.” The only issue I have is towards the end, where a melody appears that bears an inverted resemblance to the main riff of NIRVANA’s “Radio-Friendly Unit Shifter.”
With only a millisecond of recovery time after the first song ends, we immediately are hit with a furious attack of drums, and a “very negative song about violation/deprivation,” also known as “I’ll Stick Around,” kicks off, which ends on a very climactic, repetitive, yet strongly effective note. We are introduced to Grohl’s anger for the first time, and to this day it is rumored that this song was written about Courtney Love, whom he felt had abused his friend Kurt when he was alive and even now when he was dead, and also about how he would prove himself to be better than her in the end. Oh, how right he was…
The aggression tones down with “Big Me,” arguably the most popular song off this album. It’s a sweet, sappy love song about trying to work out issues in a relationship, and most people will remember it for the Mentos allusion in the video. The guitar work is what it needs to be, and Dave’s multi-layered vocals are excellent, but his drumming on this track tends to sound too strong and out of place. Love songs like these tend to sound more suitable with William Goldsmith and later Taylor Hawkins on the drums.
“Alone + Easy Target” is a song that Grohl had actually practiced instrumentally with NIRVANA in 1991 during soundchecks before shows, and the NIRVANA-esque feel is there again. This could be a song written about constantly having to prove himself to Cobain but then watching him do the same with his wife. This theme seems to continue in “Good Grief,” which talks about “the thought of being ousted,” a probable reference to Cobain’s reportedly maddening control-freak nature.
“Floaty” is the only song Grohl claims has ever had effects used on his voice, due to his “amazing insecurity about it,” but it really makes the song shine. The title, lyrics, and the feel of the song all seem to scream out “spacy.” It is absolutely unclear what the song could be about. In my opinion, this is the most “relaxing shoutfest” I’ve ever heard, particularly during the chorus.
“Weenie Beenie” may be the most pointless song on the album, but we have to keep in mind that this was a demo tape, and Grohl was a former member of NIRVANA, a Sonic-Youth-inspired band with a penchant for experimentation. On this track, Grohl uses an interesting technique of muffling his voice nearly-completely so that the lyrics are unintelligible (fans have since deciphered the words to this song) and putting a very, VERY grungy riff for the verse and the chorus. The song is really funny to listen to the first time, but its repeat value is very low.
Grohl claims that “Oh, George” is also pointless. Perhaps he feels so because of its sound being something like a cross between “Big Me” and “Exhausted,” another song on the album, but it’s a very reflective song which is my favorite vocal performance by Dave on the entire album. The lyrics seem to about leaving the music world on “the train” and then coming back after having “waited for his turn.”
This is followed by “For All The Cows,” yet another triumphant bash to Courtney Love and other “cash cows.” It makes a mockery out of their desire to advance in society and become “upper class,” when at the same time they cannot forfeit their despicable habits more synonymous with less “rich” people. It follows the soft-loud formula of “This Is A Call,” but also features some longer playful strumming in the verse by Grohl, while the chorus goes all-out in aggression, and we finally get an excellent solo that rocks up the verse melody.
Greg Dulli drops by for “X-Static,” and we are treated to a grungy, brooding session of melancholy by Grohl, who says songs like this are “the only way he can express grief or happiness.” The meaning of the apparently defeatist lyrics is strongly unclear. A depressing musical landscape is painted by Grohl. Although this song does not have a fast drumming part, Grohl seems to relish the relief provided by Dulli and bangs the drums with intense fervor for a slower song such as this.
Dave then turns his attention to record industry politics with “Wattershed,” and attacks how labels trap idealistic punk bands with their clauses and tricks in contracts, which essentially leads to the bands selling their souls. The song is as aggressive as “I’ll Stick Around,” which shows how passionate Grohl is about his love for punk and how it is painful to see it in this state.
The album concludes with “Exhausted,” a song that is very sad and is primarily instrumental, but features another excellent vocal performance by Grohl. The meaning of the lyrics are unclear. There is a long feedback section of the song, which features intermittent drumming by Grohl at the same time, and creates a similar feel to the “relaxing rockfest” vibe that “Floaty” gave off, except in this case it’s much more depressing.
Is this album perfect? Of course not. It’s very raw, unpolished, and sounds like…well, a demo tape. But despite all of its flaws, it is 99% a compendium of one man’s years of private work, and it is sometimes soft, sometimes loud, sometimes angry, sometimes happy, and sometimes depressing. The best part is that thanks to the abstract lyrics, the listener can make the album be about basically whatever he or she wants it to be and thanks to the emotional range, is suitable for any sort of mood. Although some of the lyrics may be more obvious than others, this is the true gift of the record and why even today, it towers over anything else Grohl has done since. Do yourself a favor and pick this up.
The Foo Fighters have moved to bigger and better acclaim for their later albums (e.g. _The Colour & The Shape_, et al.), but to me, the albums that followed this one, their debut, while good, were not as compelling, due to the more polished sound that would creep up on those albums. The rawness of this album is what helps give it more of an intimacy, not to mention the fact that, with the exception of one song, the whole album is performed by Dave Grohl: guitars, bass, drums, and vocals — all Dave. The intimate feel of this album (yeah, an “intimate” album that “rocks,” go figure, but it works) is what makes it my absolute favorite in the Foo Fighters catalogue.
As many know, Dave was the drummer of Nirvana, and many would think that Dave trying to form his own band after the split-up of those Seattle juggernauts, would prove to be an embarrassing failure. This was *hardly* the case, as The Foo Fighters are an *excellent* band, and I *personally* don’t think about Nirvana’s ghost while listening to The Foo Fighers; this alone should tell you something (or at least it would tell you that I disagree with the editorial review on this page.) In other words, The Foo Fighters (to me) stand on their own, and don’t remind me much of Nirvana.
Recorded in one week during October of 1994 (just months after Kurt Cobain’s death, and Nirvana’s demise), but released in July of 1995, this debut album is jam-packed with chewy, sweet-tasting pop confections — of course shielded with lush, heavy guitars which produce a thick wall-of-sound — and is hard not to fall in love with. Like another reviewer stated, it’s one thing to know Dave has talent as a vocalist, drummer and tunesmith, but to know he almost *literally* single-handedly did the album by himself — writing the songs, playing *all* of the instruments — just makes one a bit envious of his talent. Along with pounding, melodic rockers like “This Is A Call,” “I’ll Stick Around,” “Good Grief,” not to mention the pleasantly goofy, get-in-the-mosh-pit intensity of “Weenie Beenie,” you get tasty Beatle-esque melodicism and craftsmanship in “Big Me,” and speaking of The Beatles, you get a beautifully-atmospheric rocker in the form of “Oh, George,” which is a tribute to no other than George Harrison (supposedly his favorite Beatle), and superbly-made tracks like “For All The Cows,” which amalgamates elegant bluesy 7th chords, fronted by Dave’s smooth-as-silk vocals for the soft parts on the verses, before bursting into explosive, heavy choruses. To close out the album, you get the oceanic, atmospheric heaviness of “Exhausted.”
This is an *excellent* album; one of the very best “alternative” albums of the 90s; an album where *every* track on the album is as good as gold. I’d put it in my “top 10″ of favorites from the 90s “alternative” scene. It’s *that* good, and it holds up quite well after nearly a decade since it’s release. Highly recommended.