On a Grohl: The Best of Foo

The Foo Fighters have become something of a recurring theme in my writing, for a number of reasons. I will confess that I did find their debut disappointing, although it’s only as time has passed and their career has progressed that my dislike of the band – Dave Grohl in particular – has really solidified. There was a time in 2005 when it was impossible to escape the strains – and I use the word intentionally and fully aware of all of its connotations – of ‘The Best of You’. Not having a digital radio at the time, I found myself often stuck with Radio 1, where Chris Moyles would play it relentlessly. Fine, he’s a commercial DJ and a slave to the playlist almost as much as to his appetite and ego, which are of comparable size. But at the time, Zane Lowe represented just about the best – by which I suppose I mean the only – real conduit to new alternative music. However, it was around this time that the playlists of the supposedly alternative Lowe, who was growing increasingly irritating in his excessively exuberant links and evermore sycophantic interviews with artists, began to overlap with the mainstream daytime shows to a considerable extent. Were alternative bands taking over the mainstream? No, the alternative being represented was becoming increasingly commercial and narrow in scope.

 

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Zane Lowe: Bumlicking Cockend

The Foo Fighters – a major force in the charts, especially following ‘The Best of You’ and the attendant album, In Your Honour – were not an alternative act. In fact, the crime was worse than that: they were the acceptable face of rock, the ‘rock’ band it was ok for people who don’t like rock to like. The very worst type of corporate rock is surely the rock the suit digs and references when trying to make like they’re hip. In my own experience, I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion that ‘The Foos Rock’. The line always seems to emit from the mouths of people who wouldn’t know rock if it hit them round the head and knocked them unconscious. Arguably, it’s impossible for any band which has songs converted to ringtones to be alternative, and certainly, if an act’s getting played every morning for a month on Chris Moyles’ breakfast show, it ain’t alternative. While I’ve never actually heard a Foo Fighters ringtone, I’m sure they exist and are favoured by the least ‘rock’ people you’re likely to meet.

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Chris Moyles: the saviour of Radio 1 or just an egotistical fat cunt who loves the sound of his own voice?

Yet the Foo Fighters retained credibility with the true rock crowd because of Grohl’s credentials in terms of his previous output. Now, as a drummer, I have to confess respect, even admiration, and his contribution to the recordings of other bands is also noteworthy: Killing Joke’s eponymous 2003 album would not have been half the album it was without his powerhouse percussion, for example.

Anyway, while some authors have imbued characters they intend to portray negatively with, for example, physical defects or deformities as a reflection of their defective personalities or deformed morality, I bestow mine with questionable musical tastes – at least as far as I’m concerned. Ben’s liking of the Foo Fighters correspond with his conflicting nature, namely the conformist battling with his rebellious streak. In Ben’s case, it’s a more complex issue than his inner rebel struggling to find an outlet against the conformist he’s become in order to fulfil the function he has assumed. Moreover, he’s a conformist at heart who has a fear of anything that disrupts the comfort of conformity; any rebellion he exhibits is as artificial as the happiness he presents to the outside world, because he knows that a dash of rebellion, of non-conformity, is cool. Fearful of going too far, and not really having a taste for anything too far beyond the ordinary, The Foo Fighters are emblematic of ‘safe’ rebellion, the musical equivalent of, say, a henna tattoo.

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Foo Fighters, with the nicest man in rock, Bee Gee tribute artist Dave Grohl

 

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Compare and Contrast: Nirvana vs The Psychedelic Furs

That Kurt Cobain was a fan of punk and new wave is no secret, and similarly, neither is the fact he was occasionally given to a spot of mild appropriation. Some might call it homage, others plagiarism, and it was the latter perspective that saw Nirvana sued by Killing Joke over ‘Come as You Are’ for its resemblance to the Killing Joke track ‘Eighties’ from the 1982 album of the same title.

 

I’ll sidestep the subsequent ironic twist which saw Dave Grohl occupy the drum stool for KJ’s 2001 eponymous album here and get down to a lesser know, yet to my ears more obvious lift on the part of the legendary grunge band… check out ‘Sister Europe’ from the 1980 self-titled album by UK post-punk act The Psychedelic Furs and then tell me (honestly) that the guitar line on ‘Big Long Now’, which appears on the Incesticide compilation isn’t just a bit similar…

 

 

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Record Store Day Bonanza…But For Whom?

I’ve spent many a long hour lamenting the demise of the independent record shop. Even second-hand shops are hard to come by now, and record fairs just aren’t as common or popular as they used to be. That I’ve had jobs in both new and second-hand stores means I have particularly fond memories, but mostly, I miss the record-shopping experience. Browsing on-line just isn’t the same, even with the tailored ‘recommendations’ sites like Amazon make. There’s just no substitute for being there, rifling through the stock and picking something out just because it looks interesting, or because the dude behind the counter’s playing something that’s completely incredible and you can’t leave the shop till it’s in your possession.

While the number of record shops may be rapidly diminishing and articles are published daily decrying the death of physical formats, the collector’s market is unquestionably alive and well and positively thriving. it’s just a matter of sourcing the goods, and the fact that physical copies are produced in smaller runs.

Of course, it’s far better in economic terms to produce fewer units and have them sell out than it is to massively overestimate potential sales – just as it’s better for a band to play a small venue and sell it out than to play to a half-empty bigger venue. But when it comes to Record Store Day, people go a little crazy. Perhaps in part this is due to the incredibly limited runs of unusual pressings by acts with large and devoted fanbases, and that’s something that’s always going to get the collectors in a frenzy – myself included.

So I rocked up at Jumbo in Leeds at a little after 10am to discover a queue containing a good forty or fifty people. ‘Fuck that’, I thought. Life’s too short for queueing, and besides, I’m plain lousy at killing time. Electing to give it twenty minutes or so, I cut back out onto the Headrow and made my way towards Crash, only to discover the situation there was the same, only worse. Much as I love vinyl and record collecting and music in general, I’m not so desperate as to stand halfway round the block just to get into a record shop on the off-chance they might have something I’m after, so I headed up New Briggate to the second-hand record store Relics, who used to have a sister shop in York called Cassidy’s. I have fond memories of Cassidy’s and picked up some great items in there, including my copy of the Throbbing Gristle ‘Five Albums’ Box Set (which despite the being a little battered, was still a steal at forty-five quid), and Relics is similarly likely to have unusual nuggets tucked in the racks.

Rifling stock beats the crap out of standing in line, but in the end I decided to pass on the few bits I was contemplating and get back on my rather more specific mission. Tom my dismay, the queue outside Crash had grown, so I legged it back to Jumbo where there queue had gone and the simple in / out barrier was facilitating a free flow of customers, even if they were three deep at the counter. I had only half a dozen items on my list – I wasn’t out to buy for the sake of it, and I had only limited funds – and they’d all gone. It was as though a plague of locusts had descended on the place. I left empty-handed. It was 10:30.

So, back to Crash, where I joined the queue. As I waited, I wondered if I’d have fared better if I’d just joined the queue in the first place, or if I’d just arrived earlier (not that 10am was exactly late). The guy in front of me suggested perhaps not: one of his mates had turned up at 6am, and there had been others there before that: some had even queued from 10pm the night before. The guy on the door informed us that there had been no fewer than 90 people waiting outside when they opened the doors. I can’t think that there are any records I’d be that desperate to get my hands on, and in my experience, most titles crop up at a reasonable price at some point (there was a time in the 90s I’d have happily paid fifty nicker for a copy of The Last of the Baby Boomers by La Costa Rasa, if only I could have found a copy. 2002, a copy surfaced on eBay and I bagged it for £2.50 as the sole bidder). Many of those in front of me were clutching Jumbo bags that were bursting at the seams.

Half an hour later, I was granted entry to the tiny emporium, and struck silver, but not quite gold, in that I failed to secure a copy of the Interpol 12” (300 copies on red vinyl) or Nirvana’s Hormoaning reissue, and they were out of the 10”by The Black Angels. I didn’t even ask about the 10” of The Queen is Dead or the latest Earth LP (only 150 copies for the UK), but did manage to bag myself the Joy Division / New Order 12”, a copy of the single by Prurient, plus the British Sea Power double 7” set for my mate. None of these items was cheap, but I figured it made sense to up the prices in the hope that the goods would go to genuine collectors rather than carpetbaggers who’d swoop in and buy an armful just to flog ‘em on eBay, forcing the desperate completists to pay through the nose. It seems only fair that the labels and – hopefully – the artists should benefit from the buying bonanza.

Alas, on arrival home I discovered that all of the titles I’d failed to get were already on eBay, and numerous copies of each had already sold as Buy It Now sales for well above the retail price (while noting with a small degree of satisfaction that the Joy Division 12”, which I’d considered steep at £15 was selling for anything from £30 to £60, while some fool had shelled out a full ton on the thing.

I’ve resisted the temptation to plug the gaps in my collection and spend money I haven’t got bidding on these items. Six months hence, or maybe later, when the initial flurry of redistribution has died down, or the popularity of some of the bands has diminished, I expect I’ll find them for a price closer to the initial retail price. If not, I’ll live. After all, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll (and I’m all about the music, man, and not capitalist greed).

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