To say the Foo Fighters are a hardworking and often crazy band is an understatement. With Dave Grohl leading the band at full tilt towards a truly legendary status as rockers, the Foo Fighters are constantly outdoing previous epic performances and records. This year marks a remarkably busy year for the band, as they not only have a new album coming out, but also an HBO documentary series showcasing Grohl’s intense love of rock music and its history in the states.
Sonic Highways, set to be released November 10th, is the eighth studio album from the Foo Fighters, and judging from the single “Something from Nothing,” this record is going to be heavier, more impressively composed, and more resonant than many of the band’s other releases. The recently released track is a gorgeous, crunchy, and anthematic taste of classic Foo Fighters fury, and takes inspiration from Chicago, the city it was recorded in.
In fact, much of the magic behind the new album comes from the Foo’s decision to record each of the eight tracks in different legendary studios in cities across the country. “Something from Nothing,” for instance, was recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago, while other locations included studios in Nashville, New York City, and Seattle. Each song on this record promises to have a distinct sound and many varying thematic elements based on the rock culture of the studios and cities.
To promote the album, the Foo Fighters performed every day for an entire week on Letterman, playing covers and originals with the likes of Zac Brown, Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart, and Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick. Not only that, but the band played smaller secret shows all over the place; Grohl and his rocking brethren are more relentless than most acts these days.
Fans of the band aren’t only digging on the new single and passionately awaiting the release of the entire album, but also getting a full on television show based around the Foo Fighters’ process of creating the album, and the rock music culture that’s continually inspired the band, and Grohl especially. Following the success of the documentary Sound City, it seems that Grohl couldn’t be satisfied with just one cinematic experience.
Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways is not your typical documentary. From what I can glean from the first episode, each chapter in the eight-part HBO series will focus on the individual history and culture of a particular city, with special attention paid to the studio the Foos recorded at. The first installment follows the band as they record “Something for Nothing” with Steve Albini, the enigmatic owner of Electrical Audio; as well, the episode details the genesis of Chicago’s music scene.
According to the show, Chicago’s musical roots owe much to blues legend Muddy Waters, as well as iconic musicians such as Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt, both of whom were interviewed for the show. Marshall Chess, a music producer and the son of the Chess Records founder, recalls that, “The first blues was really live music to pick up women.” Eventually, the documentary moves from the blues to punk, citing the influence of bands such as Naked Raygun and Cheap Trick. Rick Nielsen, among other punk rockers from many years previous, shares memories and musings with Grohl as the ex-Nirvana dude navigates the history of a genre that defined the Chicago music scene.
Steve Albini, in particular, is the most captivating character Grohl is able to unearth from the music industry. According to many musicians interviewed, he’s the perfect kind of jackass, an uncompromising guy who knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. In accordance with that identity as a maverick in the industry, it’s even revealed that the studio owner and engineer doesn’t charge royalties, instead getting payment for his time and that’s it. You’d think that the dude who recorded In Utero wouldn’t still view owning a studio as a gamble, but maybe it’s Albini’s strange philosophy that makes the material that comes out of Electrical Audio sound so good.
“We’ve all made something from nothing,” says Grohl at the end of the episode, illustrating how acts like Muddy Waters and industry innovators like Albini all rose from nothing, and how Chicago is inspiring for it’s roots as a city where blues artists played on the streets with a tin can in front of them.
“You can tie all of these people and all of these places together with these sonic highways. And it’s been generation after generation of musicians that have put us here today.” Grohl’s documentary filmmaking gives a depth to the single “Something from Nothing,” and I’m stoked beyond belief to hear the end result and see the rest of the HBO series. The Foo Fighters have always been a great band–barring maybe the lukewarm albums One by One and In Your Honour–but this may skyrocket them into a completely new realm of rock and roll that should be charted a whole lot more.
So look out, all music fans. Because the Foo Fighters are here to stay, and explode your eardrums with a dash of rock and roll love.