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The Problem with Foo Fighters' "Sonic Highways"

Keep in mind I haven’t heard the album yet. I’ve only head the three or four tracks the band has released, so I’m really attempting to hold judgement. At least until I can lie on my bed, turn on massage mode (yes, I think it is creepy that my bed vibrates, too) and give “Sonic Highways” a good listen.

Until then I have, like many of you, been watching “Sonic Highways” on HBO. I really have enjoyed this music-making road trip. The sights and sounds of these great American cities and how they have affected and inspired music all over the world will have an impact on you. It’s also exciting to see a band get juiced finding their muse in Americana. If Grohl is good at anything it’s planting a sense of appreciation for creativity. It’s idealistic. I like being idealistic when no one’s looking. However, there’s a problem.

While watching the Nashville episode this weekend my cynic heart began to beat within my idealistic one. The series and the songs on the new album are based on this appreciation or inspiration for these cities, but at some point it becomes schtick – paint by numbers. Of course, environment affects art! We are taken into spaces we may never get to travel to or perhaps not welcome in, but it provides perspective and hopefully appreciation – the Grohl Effect if you will. My cynical heart, and therefore cynical mind, began asking: “Why not just go to a McDonald’s and write about the golden fries, the stainless steel countertops, the light clasp of a cardboard Big Mac box being closed?” Isn’t that American? Didn’t that come from nothing as well? And when does this tour and documentation of memory lane become sentimental? Furthermore, if it is history we are dealing with, how many times are the Foo Fighters doomed to repeat it? According to “TV Guide” there are 5 more episodes, so at least that question is definitively answered.

Leave me alone on a Friday night with nothing but HBO Go, toenail clippers and a bacon/pepperoni pizza and these are the dark places my conscience turns to.

Are Foo Fighters doing something different? Perhaps in the documentation, but not in the method. Countless bands write songs on the road. They pull from their surroundings like anyone who writes anything.

I will keep watching “Sonic Highways” with a mind that it may sour me for the album. I hope it doesn’t. If the Seattle episode has them singing about the Space Needle, rain and Microsoft I am turning the TV in exchange to watch people karaoke “Piano Man” and “Rocket Man” at Cheers to You. Sure it’s banal, but it’s more honest repetition.


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