Tag Archives: Butch Vig

Wasting Light

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When did the Foo Fighters become this classic band? I’m not exactly sure, but they’re as much if not more of a radio presence, both on current and “classic” stations, as hipper bands such as Nirvana. I still think they’re a great singles band who make merely good to very good albums, but this album definitely falls in the “very good” category, and there’s no denying the number of first class individual songs the band has released over the years.

If you’re not a fan, I suggest you check out the excellent Back and Forth documentary that was released in conjunction with the promotion for this album. It documents the recording sessions for the album but also presents a thorough career overview, warts and all, but I know that I gained a further appreciation for the Foo Fighters as a band and the band as individuals after watching it. Anyway, back to this album, which was recorded by old friend Butch Vig (who remember had produced Nirvana’s Nevermind) in Grohl’s garage using analog equipment, as the band wanted to keep it real and capture the raw, unprocessed sound of a band playing live. The strategy worked very well, because the sound is definitely a throwback to their earliest (best) records, and the album is also aided by several guest appearances, including singer-guitarist Bob Mould, bassist Krist Novoselic (ex-Nirvana), singer Fee Waybill (The Tubes), and keyboardist Rami Jaffee (The Wallflowers), plus Pat Smear is back with the band as a permanent member (having already rejoined their touring ranks since 2006).

As per usual, this album will likely be best remembered by its often-played anthemic singles, and “Rope,” “These Days,” and “Walk” are all very good efforts if not among their absolute best. What distinguishes this album from their prior album is how consistently strong it is from top to bottom, as “Bride Burning” is a hard-hitting opener with a lighter catchy chorus, and “Dear Rosemary” is moodier but still rocking, with Mould adding his trademark intensity and memorably weird vocals. Elsewhere, “Arlandria” is a grower track with another big chorus, “Back & Forth” manages to have a raw sound and still be poppy, with yet another easily singable chorus, and “I Should Have Known” is an emotional ballad (mostly) whose last minute-plus (where Novoselic really shines) is among their most intense ever.

Even the lesser songs (typically the less hooky ones such as “Miss The Misery”) usually have some cool parts that make them worth listening to, as this veteran band shows that they’re still capable of surprises after all

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Gish

With screaming guitars cutting through the famously propulsive Pumpkins chug, “I am One” and “Siva” start the album off with the band at their most hard edged, “Gish” presented a readymade and highly original hard rock force.  However, “Rhinoceros” presents a softer side to the Pumpkins that is also apparent on most of the other songs here, most of which inevitably erupt as well.

As for the rest of the songs, “Bury Me” brings the rock big time, again with screaming guitars aplenty, the lush “Crush” is a beautifully low-key ballad, the trippily atmospheric, Eastern-tinged “Suffer” would later be brilliantly sampled by Tricky, the soaring “Snail” is the album’s most impressively epic arena rocker (along with “Rhinoceros”), “Tristessa” is stylistically similar to “Bury Me” but isn’t as good, “Window Paine” has its ups and downs but its ups are genuinely exciting, and the charming finale “Daydream” is a lightly dreamy change of pace sung girlishly by bassist D’Arcy in her only lead vocal with the band. In retrospect, Gish was the blueprint for even better things to come, but the album should still thrill the majority of the band’s legions of followers. Led by Billy Corgan, this was a band born for big things that knew exactly what they wanted right from the start (according to Corgan, he wanted to “combine the atmosphere of goth-rock with heavy metal”), aspiring towards everything that all of their indie “peers” despised by refusing to check either ego or ambition at the door.

Granted, Corgan’s geeky, grating vocal whine takes some getting used to, but producer Butch Vig manages to smooth over its rough edges just enough, and his voice certainly is uniquely his own. Though it pales in comparison to its subsequent big brothers, on which Corgan’s songwriting would grow by leaps and bounds, Gish was the necessary first step that made those brilliant albums possible, and it remains an exciting and estimable first effort in its own right.


Nevermind

This album heralded a revolution. Sick of all the slick, cheesy hair bands that dominated the late ‘80s due to MTV, America’s youth embraced this album as a call to arms, and the music scene hasn’t been the same since. Shockingly coming from out of nowhere to knock Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the #1 slot on the Billboard charts, Nevermind marked the exact moment when “alternative rock” music finally found mainstream acceptance. We can all debate whether that turned out to be such a good thing or not, especially in light of all the copycat bands that ended up making “grunge” a dirty word in most music circles. But for a while there radio and MTV were actually pretty exciting places, and all because of this album, which sounds almost as fresh today as the day it was released. And why is that? Primarily, it’s because Kurt Cobain was a superb songwriter, and the songs here are such a quantum leap beyond Bleach that it almost sounds like a different band. Also, the addition of Dave Grohl (one of the best rock drummers ever) takes the band’s musical chops and chemistry to another level, and the major label production is miles more advanced than on Bleach.

Of course, Cobain hated it, thinking it too slick and commercial for his purist sensibilities. He has a point, but the scuzzy sonics of Bleach could’ve taken the band but so far (commercially speaking), and this Butch Vig production does a good job of showcasing Cobain’s melodic gifts without sacrificing the vibrant energy of the music. As for the songs, the flagship single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (the one that “broke” the band) just might be the ultimate teen anthem ever, while “In Bloom” delivers a poppy sing along chorus to go along with crunchy power chords and Grohl’s pulverizing drum pop. “Come As You Are” is another all-time classic that’s led by an unforgettable bass riff, an incredibly understated intensity, a technically simplistic but ear pleasingly terrific guitar solo, and memorably prophetic lyrics (“and I don’t have a gun”). To me, it’s like the invitation from Nirvana to its fans. “Breed” is one of several songs (“Territorial Pissings” and “Stay Away” are the others) that rage along with a nonstop fury, while “Lithium” is an excellent example of what Grohl called “punk rock songs you could sing along to.” Elsewhere, “Drain You” and “On a Plain” are catchy rockers with just enough of an edge, “Polly” is a melodic ballad but with chilling lyrics, and “Something In the Way” is a shockingly understated (and successful) song that features sparse cello backing and Cobain’s barely audible voice, thereby foreshadowing their spectacular Unplugged showcase three years later. “Lounge Act” is the only song here that isn’t outstanding (and even that one is pretty good), and Nevermind was arguably the most important album of the ‘90s.

Many of these songs start slow but soon swell to explosive crescendos; this would become a slavishly imitated Nirvana trademark. There is a hidden track approximately seven minutes after the last listed song ends, spearheading one of the more annoying ‘90s trends.


There Is Nothing Left To Lose

With new drummer Taylor Hawkins in tow, Foo Fighters returned with the desperately titled There Is Nothing Left To Lose, which was recorded as a three-piece at Grohl’s home studio. Now, I don’t normally quote press releases, but the one I received describing this album sums it up both succinctly and well: “the Foo Fighters remind us that it is okay to play loudly and in tune, that songs can still be about girls, and that not every band needs a goddamned DJ in the mix.

Indeed, Foo Fighters have little in common with much of what you’re hearing on the radio these days (the less said about that the better), as big pop hooks anchor catchy, commercial-sounding songs such as “Breakout” and “Learn To Fly,” the album’s soaring first single. And though Dave Grohl has rocked both melodically (“This Is A Call”) and softly (“Big Me,” “Walking After You”) before, this is easily the least likely Foo Fighters album so far to have the words “alternative” or “grunge” associated with it. Grunge is dead, after all (or so everyone says), and while I for one miss the great early ‘90s likes of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Grohl has never been one to live in the past.

That said, this album has a classic rock influence that reaches back further than anything on their first two albums, and Grohl isn’t above borrowing from the past, introducing a Foghat-like riff on “Gimme Stitches” and a Frampton-styled talking fuzz box on “Generator.” Elsewhere, the band turns down the volume on the pleasingly mellow melodies of “Aurora,” “Next Year,” and “Ain’t It The Life,” while harder rocking tracks such as “Stacked Actors,” “Live-In Skin,” and “M.I.A.” likewise contain choruses that are highly melodic. Yet for all the album’s consistent quality it must be said that it could use a jolt of that old punk energy at times. Also, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, which was so named because the album was recorded before the band had a record label in place, offers consistently very good but no truly great songs aside from “Learn To Fly.” Still, this was another welcome installment by a maturing band that refuses to stay in one place, as Dave Grohl and company continue to build their own impressive legacy irrespective of Grohl’s glorious past.


Dave Grohl is God

I love this MAN..and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Dave dedicated his award to Kurt Cobain and gave a shout to the Pixies! A living LEGEND!


Nirvana Flashback

This is the picture of Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Butch Vig taken on Oct. 27th, 2010.

Butch Vig, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl

In 1991, ‘Nevermind’ was released, Nirvana blew up the scene, and as they say: ‘Rest is history’

After 20 years later, rest of the gang are jamming. It’s been said Kris will have a guest appearance on few songs, and the next Foo Fighters’ album will be a tribute to “Nevermind’ – I’m pumped for 2011!