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.