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Band of the Year: Foo Fighters

on December 14, 2011, 12:00am

When recording this year’s Wasting Light, Dave Grohl and his fellow Foos retreated to his garage in an attempt to capture the rawness of their 1995 self-titled debut. They failed. What they did do, however, was emerge with a near-perfect collection of polished radio anthems that were big on hooks, emotion, and, most importantly, the three-axe attack of Grohl, Chris Shiflett, and Pat Smear. Oh, those guitars. Those guitars! Now, say it in a throat-shredding Dave Grohl snarl. Come on, try it. You can’t, can you? Not many can.

Looking back, the unexpected results make total sense. Foo Fighters was a record essentially created by one man, while Wasting Light was a true collaborative effort, a dynamic on full display in this year’s retrospective documentary, Back and Forth. And although both albums were cut on analog tape, the latter was still digitally manipulated during post-mastering. Foo Fighters was written and recorded by Grohl at Seattle’s Robert Lang Studios. Wasting Light was recorded in a garage that had pretty much been renovated into a professional studio, complete with Nevermind producer Butch Vig and appearances from former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and Hüsker Dü grouch Bob Mould. You get the idea. Getting back to the group’s raw, and let’s face it, solo roots may have had noble intent, but the boys forgot that somewhere along the way they had become an actual band, a filthy rich one at that, and in a completely different fashion than Nirvana. And that’s okay. Simply put: Foo Fighters craft unabashed arena rock, and they do it well.

foofighters2011 Band of the Year: Foo Fighters

And how many bands can do that? Truly do it without a sense of irony, camp, or sheer boneheadedness. It’s a type of beast that roamed stages in hordes during the ’60s and ’70s (e.g. Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Thin Lizzy, the list goes on) but has since threatened to go the way of the buffalo. Popular rock behemoths like Nickelback go through the motions with imitative stadium swagger, and longstanding outfits such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers chug along on little to no gas. Arcade Fire, U2, and Springsteen (last of a dying breed) all know how to fill a cavernous space with a stellar live show, but their politics often become heavy-handed. Grohl & Co. just know how to rock, and this couldn’t have been more apparent in 2011.

A headlining slot at Lollapalooza performed during pouring rain and crackling lightning made their music all the more thunderous, as did secret shows at intimate venues like Los Angeles’ Spaceland (now The Satellite), Austin’s Stubbs, and Chicago’s Metro. Throughout all of April, the group continued their penchant for executing blistering jams on small stages with the Garage Tour, treating eight lucky fans to highly intimate concerts in their very own homes, or more appropriately, their very own carports. In the same month, the covers-only album, Medium Rare, was released on Record Store Day, featuring new covers (Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation”, The Zombie’s “This Will Be Our Year) alongside older renditions (Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”, Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park”). Leaving no white spaces in their schedule, they also knocked out late-night performances with legends like Joan Jett and Roger Waters. They rock. They roll. And then some.

To be fair, they don’t outright ignore politics. (Does anyone remember Grohl’s frustration with President Bush’s use of “Times Like These”? No?) This year was no exception. Though, even when the band does dive into the political forum (which is rare), they do so with energetic abandon and a smart-alecky smirk. In September, they lashed out against anti-gay protesters from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in typical Foo fashion, donning exaggerated trucker garb and chugging through their jokey country (and pro-gay) ditty “Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)” from the back of a moving pickup truck. (It should be noted that the entire reason for the protest was the group’s promotional tour video, which featured them wearing (and not wearing) the same clothes in a truck stop packed with slow-motion shower nudity.)

This seriocomic juxtaposition is quite common for the group, though. It’s a part of their brand; they’re funny guys. Ever since their early video for “Big Me”, they’ve exhibited this knack for providing gut-blistering gimmicks. Nothing has changed. In fact, they’re funnier. Look at the two new additions to their impressive videography: “White Limo” and “Walk”. The former showcases a kitschy late-’80s aesthetic and, most notably, a muggy performance from Motörhead legend Lemmy Kilmister. While the latter hilariously spoofs Michael Douglas’ cult classic film, Falling Down, and ends up being one of this year’s best videos – but, more importantly, one of the group’s best.

Here’s why: A bespectacled Grohl strolls through all the linchpin scenes of the ’90s film, growing frustrated with a congested Los Angeles and taking out his white-collar anger on an assortment of poorly costumed characters (all played by his bandmates). Only when the song kick-starts into the breakneck throttle of the climax does Grohl arrive at a rehearsal warehouse, strap on a guitar, and launch into his true role as frontman for the greatest mainstream rock outfit in the world. It’s a moment that’s both hilarious and inspiring and a nod to fans well-versed in the group’s dueling displays of catharsis and buffoonery. Just when the viewer reaches an emotional apex, the police show up to arrest Grohl for his acts of assault throughout the day. It’s the perfect cap to the song and a comment on the band’s career. They’re willing to get serious, but not too serious. They’ll always be silly, but not too silly. And that’s why we (and the rest of the world) love ‘em. Keep rocking, boys. Our trucker hats go off to you.

48 comments

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pwk-jtt
December 21, 2011 at 12:26 am

i feel like some of the people commenting on this are really just jealous fans of maroon 5 or something

pwk-jtt
December 21, 2011 at 12:22 am

saw them in phoenix in sept. loved it-it was so cool! i loved the backstage camera part. I can’t wait until people start referring to these guys as legends just like i do

pwk-jtt
December 21, 2011 at 12:13 am

sadly, i wasnt’ around for those bands-but come on man, just ’cause you don’t think they’re the best doesn’t mean you have to rip on them.

Levi Szekeres
December 19, 2011 at 4:10 am

80’s hip hop rocks more! This is just another shitty guitar embracing, long haired, vain and fake sellout band. Not much fight around here.

pwk-jtt
December 21, 2011 at 12:10 am

dude……why?

tomzera
December 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm

i feel sorry for you

Carsey
January 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm

you should die.

Today Todie
January 4, 2012 at 3:19 am

Poor you, you wanna be rockstar. Foo IS NOT, they just a MUSICIAN. Thats why we love them. Rockstar is full of fake f***ing face. Foo is closer to us, ordinary.

Beatleshell
December 19, 2011 at 3:52 am

you need to listen to them more……..can’t disagree with you more!

Beatleshell
December 19, 2011 at 3:46 am

have you ever attended a Foo Fighter concert?

Isaías Guerra
December 17, 2011 at 6:16 am

best band alive

Isaías Guerra
December 17, 2011 at 6:16 am

best band alive

Dreampy
December 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

You’re going to regret saying that when they don’t play no more.

Danmfr
December 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I’m pretty sure that the quote “the latter was still digitally manipulated during post-mastering” is incorrect. From what I’ve read, the album was mastered on analog tape and hardware as well. Didn’t touch digital until it came to distribution.  

Wykydtron
December 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm

You’re right. They took it to a big fancy studio to get it mixed, but found that in mixing it there, it lost the very quality they were going for by doing it on tape. So they went back to their limited mixing board and cut the album right where it was made. Some stuff even had to be cut out, which kind of sucks, but we got a crazy rock album out of it.

Lorialfie
December 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Best band around. Good article btw.

Cferraro03
December 15, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I listen to them daily. Converted my whole family. I saw them in Denver and then Phoenix they are an awesome show. I can’t wait for the next tour.

Kelley Michelle Klor
December 15, 2011 at 3:27 am

Original?  Like ALL the songs that Dave Grohl actually wrote?  Like disc 2 of In Your Honor, that is “same old, same old”?  Yeah…so unoriginal. 

DaveyB
December 15, 2011 at 2:31 am

Love the Fooey’s. Thought it was a long road downhill in 2007 but you came back and then some!
FF at the top of their game… AGAIN!!!!

Kennyrocks14
December 15, 2011 at 2:30 am

Couldn’t have said it better myself. They are amazing. Agree with your RHCP assessment as well. Nicely done

Hit16
December 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Am I the only person who though Stadium Arcadium was an incredible album? Or the only person that remembers it sold like 5 million copies worldwide? “I’m With You” is the first album since “One Hot Minute” nearly 15 years ago that didn’t deliver, and that’s because Frusciante is no longer in the fold. 

Love the Foos though!

Nadroj1991
December 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

 i actually like the stadium arcadium cause it has some unique songs on. desecration smile, hump de bump, snow, Charlie and obviously dani california.

Wykydtron
December 15, 2011 at 2:29 am

Just because, in the exploration of their sound, the Foo Fighters have stayed within a range that doesn’t alienate fans, one can’t say what they do is “safe”. Sure, they could get into the studio and circle jerk something like “Lulu” out at us, but that would be a real disappointment. Every Foo Fighters song has emotion and every song has power, that is the essence of true rock and roll, and that is what makes the band great, and what will make the band legendary.

Jay
December 15, 2011 at 2:27 am

Amazing album by and amazing band! Congrats foo fighters!

Tlc_1374
December 15, 2011 at 2:05 am

Really? Ever listened to more FF than what is played on the radio?  They are incredibly diverse.  The radio stuff is great but listen to the stuff that isn’t played on the radio. It’s pure gold.  J., if you’re not a fan, that’s fine but seriously dude, don’t rain on the parade of those of us who want to express our admiration for the band.  Do some research about the guys in this band (and not just the Back and Forth Doco) and you will see they are ALL brilliant musicians.

Jerry_ayopila
December 15, 2011 at 1:57 am

congrats foo! m/

Avemitchell
December 15, 2011 at 1:34 am

What the fuck. You are an idiot.

Korina0316
December 15, 2011 at 1:34 am

I love the foo fighters because they made good music 

FooFighturs!
December 15, 2011 at 1:32 am

Lots of Justin Bieber’s Fans here. so who’s your favorite band? you guy think FF is boring but no one compares FF ever.

Jlansing29
December 15, 2011 at 2:28 am

No One compares EVER!!!!! Are You Insane!!! Ever?????? Put down the FF t-shirt and take a breath,

Dana Aritonovich
December 15, 2011 at 1:32 am

Nobody can even come close to Foo, COS has it spot on!

Dreampy
December 15, 2011 at 1:32 am

What’s the matter? Jealous much?

Seekandreplay
December 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm

The Flaming Lips are Band Of The Year, hands down.

Stewart
December 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Greatest band in the world right now, they are the last torch-bearers of rock and roll (along with Pearl Jam). Screw all this boring sissy music like Bon Iver and James Blake, music should be powerful and not put you to sleep, and that’s exactly what Foo FIghters do. They don’t follow anyone’s scripts or any current trends, they make good solid rock music the way it should be done.

J.Christian
December 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm

They don’t follow a script? Are you serious? They use every rock cliche in the books to get their boring ass songs across. I small step ahead of Nickelback, and if Grohl wasn’t from Nirvana, they would NEVER garner this type of support. What A JOKE!!!!!

Guest
December 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm

“if Grohl wasn’t from Nirvana, they would NEVER garner this type of support.”

You just proved your intelligence right there bud.

Beatleshell
December 19, 2011 at 3:52 am

Hm……guess the fact that Dave has played in at least 30 different bands doesn’t hurt either…

Dreampy
December 15, 2011 at 1:30 am

You got that wrong buddy. If Grohl wasn’t ever the drummer of Nirvana we might have never heard of any Kurt Cobain.. Ever thought about what an awesome musical talented guy Dave is?

Nfox0900
December 15, 2011 at 1:31 am

They play it safe with their sound. There not completely rewriting the basics of music no, but they keep to basics and are definitely one of the best rock acts around. And I havent found a FF song that has “bored” me yet.

Stewart
December 15, 2011 at 6:03 am

Take a listen to their songs not played on the radio. Aurora, How I Miss You, MIA, Generator, New Way Home, Butterflies, But Honestly, Exhausted, and Floaty then get back to me. No Foo Fighters song is boring (with the exception of Walking After You)

Stewart
December 15, 2011 at 6:05 am

And do you really think that Roger Daltrey, Paul McCartney, Brian May, Roger Taylor, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Roger Waters, and Joan Jett would play with any boring band?

Beatleshell
December 19, 2011 at 3:50 am

I totally disagree with you……..sure it didn’t HURT that Dave was in Nirvana but I believe he would have been successful no matter what.  You are forgetting that HE wrote most of the Foo Fighters music and recorded their first album on his own.  You can’t even compare Nirvana and the Foos….completely different bands!

AgingRocker
December 15, 2011 at 1:44 am

I agree totally, Stew.  They did not visit Texas on their tour, so I bought myself a ticket and flew to Phoenix to see them.  It was pure joy.  I think they are VERY DIVERSE as opposed to J. Christian.  They are a hard rock band but their music is very listenable.

Anonymous
December 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm

This article is not accurate check your facts dan caffrey….just for one example the first album was recorded at Laundry Room Studios and Robert Lang studios in seattle washington while daves room was in virginia at the time ine his parents house, he later down the road  purchased a bigger house and recorded nothing left to lose in his basement.  He never recorded an album in his room, and the first album was not completely a solo effort, he had help on x static from Greg Dulli from The Afghan Whigs.  I feel when you work and report for a big music website like this you have a responsibility to be accurate in your journalism and to present accurate information as a medium between the fans and the musicians themselves……

People that say foo fighters play boring safe rock music that is not original, then go buy the self titeld album, the colour and the shape, and in your honor and listen to the rock and acoustic side on in your honor and tell me exactly what is boring, and non original about those albums instead of just making a judgment off of what you have heard formt he last couple albums.

This band has a lot of contrast and faces and has molded themselves to conintue their existance.  Watever you think is way better and more original is either not the same genre of music, or will dissipate within 10 years…..good luck ;)

Moses1221
December 14, 2011 at 6:17 am

Remember when they came out and covered for Cee Lo at Hangout? I do. It was one of the best festie moments of the year!

willsfc
December 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm

I’m suprised the article didn’t mention it, That was a great move by FF

berna fett
December 14, 2011 at 5:51 am

CoS loves Foo Fighters

CARmakazie
December 14, 2011 at 6:57 am

Everyone should. I’d do some bad things just to shake Dave Grohls hand…like, run people over with golf carts and stuff.