If, last week, you had access to broadcast media, and were not living under a rock, where your signal may have been weak, you probably noticed that the nation became completely swept up in the “Ebola crisis.” I put the phrase in quotes because, as crises go, this one was overblown to the point of becoming laughable.
If you were able to wade past all the Ebola news, however, you may have been aware that America’s most fabulous rock band, MY rock band, was beginning a media launch in anticipation of their new album. Foo Fighters’ 8th studio album, Sonic Highways, will release on November 10th, and there are all sorts of promotional events happening now in anticipation of that release.
For those of you who aren’t following Foo news – and you do have me for that – the new album has a very unique theme. Over the past year, the Foos traveled America, recording eight new songs, each one in a different city, with each song reflecting that city’s unique musical character and distinctive features. The band has been very intentional in its process. This album is a tribute to what’s most special about American music, and the influences that have made it what it is.
Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, Austin, Chicago, Nashville, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Each city has its own sound, and its own musical texture. Sonic Highways promises to showcase this, and to be something special, and I have no doubt it will be.
Last week, longtime Foo fan Dave Letterman brought the band on his show as musical guests every night. On Monday, Dave Grohl was also a guest on the show, and discussed everything from the new album’s concept to his daughter Violet’s love of gangsta’ rap! The band was featured in skits each night, and they performed with a bevy of well-known musicians.
Not wanting to give too much away, the Foos were careful in their musical selections for the Late Show gigs. For most of the week, they chose covers of other bands’ songs. Zac Brown sat in Monday for the cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, and Tuesday night brought Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, who performed their hit ‘Kick It Out’ with the Foos providing back-up.
On Wednesday, the band teamed up with swamp rocker legend Tony Joe White for an awesome rendition of his classic “Polk Salad Annie”. Then on Thursday, Dave and Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins pulled a switch. Taylor sang lead and Dave took over on drums, with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen stepping in on guitar for that band’s hit, “Stiff Competition”. It’s always a treat to hear Taylor sing lead, and I never grow tired of seeing Dave back behind a drum kit.
Two huge treats awaited us on Friday’s show. First, a hilarious Top Ten list featuring the top 10 things the Foo Fighters would say following their week on the Late Show. Click this link to see Pat Smear and Late Show announcer Alan Kalter steal the show. Then the band brought the house down with a debut performance of “Something from Nothing”, a cut from the upcoming album.
As if all this fabulousness wasn’t enough to whip the band’s enormous fan base into a pre-album frenzy, Friday night also brought the debut of the new HBO series Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways, the 8-part documentary, directed by Dave, which chronicles the making of the album, along with some history behind the musical influence in each of the eight cities.
For the Foo Faithful, us Foonatics, if you will, all of this activity was thrilling and exciting and served to get everyone even more fired up about the album’s debut. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that some of the fan reaction overwhelmed me.
I love my Foo brethren. I’ve made a ton of wonderful online friends who understand my obsession with this band much better than any of the normal folks I know. I don’t want to take anything away from any of them, but the chatter over last week’s events was just too much. In particular, there was the day last week when “Something from Nothing” was released as a single. It was timed out to be aired on rock radio stations here in the U.S. and in Britain simultaneously.
In the hours leading up to the song going live, social media was hopping with anxious fans waiting to hear it. And for hours after it aired, there was discussion about it. Opinions ranged from “best fucking Foo song EVER” to “I really didn’t much care for it”, and everything in between. What did the lyrics mean? Who influenced the song? How about that guitar riff in the middle? And on, and on.
Finally, I had to step back. I didn’t hear the song when it aired. I could have listened to a replay, but I really didn’t want my first taste of this album, which I’ve admittedly been anticipating for the last 3½ years to be over the shitty speakers attached to my work computer. No, I opted to wait until Friday night, to hear the band perform it live on Letterman.
And had they not done that, I would have waited until November 10th, when that CD, which I pre-ordered months ago, arrived. I’ve waited this long, a few more weeks won’t hurt. I should be able to hear this album on my own terms, meaning without previous input from every other fan.
So here’s my plan: With CD in hand, I will pour myself a Woodchuck. I will retreat to my den, unplug my phone, silence my cell, load the CD into the player, turn off the lights, have a seat on my sofa, and have my first listen to Sonic Highways. I will absorb it in one sitting, without interruption from the outside world. I will draw my own conclusions about what this album is.
And then I’ll listen a few more times. Because you really don’t know how you feel about an album until you’ve had a chance to listen to it several times. But I know this band. They won’t disappoint me.
Before I close, I want to say something about Ebola, in light of recent events. I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of this health concern. It’s a terrible disease and one that certainly deserves attention. But in typical American fashion, media outlets took the ball and ran with it, blowing the story completely out of proportion, and creating a palpable degree of panic and an obsession with “facts” not in evidence. Which created fear, hostility, and a significant increase in the sale of HAZMAT gear. Panicky people make some really foolish consumer choices.
So, I want to leave you with this information, from the perspective of a grad student who has spent the past three years reading and researching health issues, from credible sources. You may take it to heart or not, your choice:
If you’re concerned about your health and the next big pandemic that might kill you, go to your doctor and get a flu shot. Wash your hands frequently. But stop worrying about Ebola. Because, unless you find yourself in the position of being able to wallow in the bodily fluids of an Ebola-infected person (and you’re much more likely to find a winning Power Ball ticket in your pocket), the flu is a much more credible menace to your health.
You’re an intelligent human being. Please behave like one.