I may have got a little too carried away with this Top 5. I dove deeper and deeper down the Foo Fighters rabbit hole, but hey, there are worse places to get lost on the interweb, am I right? I’ve grown up with the Foo Fighters, seen them live in smaller venues (Riviera and Aragon Ballroom), and Arena shows like the recent stop in Champaign last fall. They’re a great live act, and although I’ve never met him, Dave Grohl truly seems like one of the good guys in Rock. He comes across like a real person, who just so happens to be an amazing drummer and songwriter…and he’s pretty good at guitar too! Singing-wise, he can scream with the best of them. But what he lacks for in vocal quality, he makes up for in how he connects with the audience as a front man. Not too bad for a high-school dropout. Onto the List!!
5) Stacked Actors
This may be the nastiest riff in the entire Foo Fighters catalog. It’s a heck of live jam stretched out, as all three members trade riffs, but it’s all Dave on the guitar on the album version which opened There’s is Nothing Left to Lose. Lose was a transitional album for the band, recorded as a three-piece. After their debut (which was a Grohl solo album just titled Foo Fighters), he put together a band and toured, and then had issues in the studio for The Colour and the Shape, especially with the drums. I guess being a super bad ass drummer can be detrimental when you’re now the frontman/guitarist and find out there are very few drummers who can match your chops. Looking back, Grohl even said he handled the situation poorly. It wasn’t until after Shape was finished, that Taylor Hawkins took the seat behind the kit. …Lose is the first recording with Hawkins for the band. Meanwhile, the second guitar position became a revolving door. Pat Smear (punk band the Germs, touring rhythm guitarist in Nirvana) left the band from exhaustion and not wanting to deal with another massive tour, and Grohl’s old bandmate Franz Stahl (Scream) took over. Stahl didn’t jive with the other three members during songwriting, so he was fired. Imagine having to fire one of your best childhood friends…man Dave.
It turned out to be the right decision though as Lose laid the groundwork for what the future of the Foo Fighters would become. At one point, Grohl called this his favorite album by the band and said the album was completely ‘based on melody.’ But the album opener doesn’t fit that frame. It’s the complete loud-quiet-loud dynamic that they’ve perfected a la Nirvana, mixed with a smattering of tasty guitars and some of Grohl’s best whisper to a scream vocals. The song is about the fakeness of Hollywood. Maybe the funniest thing about this song is Courtney Love claimed the song was about her! I still remember the first time I heard it! It was my 21st birthday in a penthouse suite at the old Congress Hotel on Wacker (now the Wyndham Grand). At on point that night, we dropped a lighter out of the 16th floor window. I picked it up the next morning and it still worked. Too be young and dumb.
The closing track from Wasting Light, an album that shows Foo’s cutting back on some of the experimentation. They brought Pat Smear back into the fold as a full-time member giving them a fuller 3 guitar assault along with Dave and the underrated Chris Shiflett (No Use for a Name and the great Punk Cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes). Smear wasn’t the only reunion for Grohl, as uber-producer of Nevermind (and member of the band Garbage) Butch Vig was at the controls. And did I mention, those control were Analog? No digital recording this time. They set up shop in Grohl’s garage and set out to make “that one album that kinda defines the band: it might not be their best album, but it’s the one people identify the band with the most.” It definitely does that, and it also happens to be their best album. Other albums may have catchier and better singles, but this album was the most complete. Even the filler is good.
As for the video below, the true mark or a great rock star is being able to take this song and strip it down to just a voice and an acoustic guitar and still kick ass.
Yes, another song from Wasting Light. What can I say, it’s my favorite album of theirs so it gets double representation. Arlandria is a neighborhood in Virginia between Alexandria and Arlington and it’s near where Grohl grew up. After Nirvana, he bought his own house there. This songs packs some emotional heft from Dave in the lyrics and it took me a while to figure out what exactly it was about.
Shame, shame, go away
Come again some other day
You used to say I couldn’t save you enough
So I’ve been savin’ it up, I started savin’ it up
And when you said I couldn’t give you enough,
I started givin’ you up, I started givin’ you up
You are not me, Arlandria, Arlandria,
You and what army, Arlandria, Arlandria
Oh God you gotta make it stop!
It makes it seem like Arlandria is a problem…you are not me, Arlandria. But really what he’s saying is it’s time for him to go back to Arlandria because what’s going on in his life was too chaotic/stressful, whatever superlative you want to use and he needs to get away. Dave always returns to VA to center himself. I really think the whole grounding thing for Dave was super important with the entire album of Wasting Light, from bringing Butch Vig back tot he fold, to recording in his garage (even though the garage was in California). Speaking of garages, to promote the album, the band had a contest for fans to have the Foos come and play a concert in their garage! Definitely worth watching on youtube. I chose the video below to show how the translate in front of a massive audience and how Dave connects with the fans. Warning, some NSFW language.
2) The Pretender
This song was important to me because it really helped me get back into the band. For some reason, their double album In Your Honor drove me away from listening to them for a while. I remember being super excited for that concept of one disk hard-rockin’ and one disk more mellow and acoustic. But I just couldn’t get into it. I felt let down (I’ve since come to appreciate Honor for what it is). And then I heard this song
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?
That massive chorus and the chug-a-chug of the loud-quiet-loud effect and the Foos were back in my good graces. I even drove through a snow storm to see them on this album’s tour at the Allstate Arena.
Was there even a doubt what would come in at number one? Look, I know it’s the cliche choice, but its such an amazing song, and if I had to pick one song to represent them, to play for someone who’s been living under a rock for the last 20 years…this is the easy choice. Plus, I can play it on guitar…not well, but I can play it.
As for what it’s about? Dave told Kerrang! Magazine ‘that song’s about a girl that I’d fallen in love with and it was basically about being connected to someone so much, that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them you harmonise perfectly.” Rumors are, the girl was Louise Post from Chicago alt-rock band, Veruca Salt.
The song also has a great video that is a spoof on the Evil Dead, and who could forget the amazing performance of the song they gave to close out the final Late Show with David Letterman set to a montage of his clips and pictures?
The Next 10
Here are ten more tracks that I really dig:
Rosemary – Wasting Light
Monkey Wrench – Colour and the Shape
Exhausted – Self-Titled
All My Life – One by One
White Limo – Wasting Light
Enough Space – Colour and the Shape
Best of You (so much better live — crowd singing/chanting) – In Your Honor
This is a Call – Self-Titled
Come Back – One by One
Wind Up – Colour and the Shape
If you’ve ever seen them live, then you know they do some amazing covers. From AC/DC to Queen, to Van Halen, to Tom Petty. If you can find a copy of Medium Rare, lucky you. It’s a full cover album on vinyl they put out for Record Store day about 7 years ago full of some great covers. Standouts include their take on Prince’s ‘Darling Nikki,’ Wing’s ‘Band on the Run’ and this insane version of Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street.’
Who would you like to see me do next for ‘My Top 5’ Songs? Email Shap