3 foo

3. Foo Fighters, Foo Fighters

At the time, it seemed highly improbable that Foo Fighters was the thumping drumbeat announcement of one of the more enduring rock bands to emerge in the nineteen-nineties. In the aftermath of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, there weren’t a whole lot of people willing to lay bets that either of the surviving members of Nirvana would make much of an impact without the heartrending, soulful fragility of their former frontman’s musical voice. If anything, I remember greater anticipation for what bassist Krist Novoselic might come up with, probably because he was the person who could claim to be by Cobain’s side from the beginning of the group, as if the musical invention could shift by osmosis after enough exposure. Instead, it was the drummer, Dave Grohl, who wasn’t even there when Bleach was recorded, who forged a record that owed only the slightest of debts to the multiplatinum band that had made his name, but indeed served as a full-fledged commitment to unabashed, hurtling rock ‘n’ roll. Grohl understood the low expectations attached to him, expectations that, to a degree, underestimated his history and talent before taking up what was expected to be permanent residence behind the bass drum with the Nirvana logo stenciled onto it. He rejected that and the fallow offers that came with it (he reportedly turned down the gig as new drummer for Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers) and instead went out and made a record that made it clear that he was more than the backbeat in a seminal band. He was a musician.

With the exception of one guitar part on “X-Static,” provided by the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli, every sound on the self titled debut of Foo Fighters came from Grohl. He played every instrument. He sang every line. A true band would be recruited in time for touring (including a couple members of Sunny Day Real Estate and Pat Smear, the former Germs guitarist who’d been a touring member of Nirvana), but Foo Fighters is a statement of self, of intent. The singles alone offer a treatise on Grohl’s musicianship and underrated talent for songcraft: “This is a Call,” “I’ll Stick Around,” “For All the Cows” (the only one that wasn’t a hit on commercial radio), and “Big Me.” If Nirvana launched a revolution, somewhat unwittingly and unwillingly, Foo Fighters was about mastering the form that Cobain bent to his wounded will.

As noted above, Grohl’s mastery has endured, well past the point that anyone would have likely predicted upon hearing the first Foo Fighters album, strong as it is. He and his band are arguably the standard bearers for a certain form of rock ‘n’ roll: big, loud, guitar-driven, simple, direct. U2 are probably their closest semi-contemporaries, the other band with a propensity for arena bombast that hasn’t yet (quite) been relegated to the senior circuit, but Bono and his cohorts have always approached their rock stardom with a level of undercutting irony, a veneer of chiding embarrassment. Grohl believes in what he’s doing, as evidenced by the earnest testimonies to the power of music that can be found in the surprisingly strong HBO documentary series Sonic Highways. Foo Fighters is the ideal introduction to that sterling belief system. Like the pinnacle achievements of Grohl’s prior band, it resounds with the authentic expressive of its chief creator’s voice. He didn’t carry Nirvana’s legacy forward, exactly. He didn’t need to. All that was required, it turned out, was to be firmly and truly Dave Grohl.

Previously….

An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In
— 46 and 45: 13 Unlucky Numbers and Resident Alien
— 44-42: Elastica, Private Stock, and Death to Traitors
— 41-39: Optimistic Fool, Ben Folds Five, and Above
— 38-36: Collide, Cowboys and Aliens, and Batman Forever
— 35-33: Taking the World by Donkey, One Hot Minute, and Dog Eared Dream
— 32 and 31: Straight Freak Ticket and Besides
— 30-28: Sixteen Stone, Big Dumb Face Shoe Guy, and Cascade
— 27-25: Born to Quit, King, and Hate!
— 24 and 23: Sparkle and Fade and Brown Bag LP
— 22 and 21: University and Pummel
— 20 and 19: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Thread
— 18 and 17: Ball-Hog or Tugboat? and Rainbow Radio
— 16 and 15: Let Your Dim Light Shine and Day For Night
— 14 and 13: Tales from the Punchbowl and Sleepy Eyed
— 12 and 11: Post and Deluxe
— 10: Yes
— 9: To Bring You My Love
— 8: Garbage
— 7: 100% Fun
— 6: Only Everything
— 5: Brainbloodvolume
— 4: The Bends

2 thoughts on “College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1995, 3

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