Foo Fighters - There Is Nothing Left To Lose
My personal musical hiatus and longer-standing exile from musical innovation and creativity meant that grunge pretty much passed me by. It would not be a lie to say that I had never heard of Nirvana until the late nineties, by which time Kurt Cobain was long dead and grunge was fast becoming a relic of a bygone age itself. But then, just as we have post-punk, post-hardcore, post-rock, it is inevitable that we should have post-grunge. I have to admit though, I didn't catch onto that either at the time of its heyday and to this day I struggle to think what exactly is meant by post-grunge as a musical expression: it is almost as if it is grunge with the sharp edges rounded off. Perhaps all musical genres, however revolutionary, however anti-establishment, eventually all slip back towards the mainstream, both musically and in a wider cultural frame. In short, today's revolutionary in-your-face noise is tomorrow's MoR.
This has started to veer towards middle of the road soft rock. Now I know people mellow as they get older, but for Dave Grohl, middle age may have come early, judging by this. Don't get me wrong, it is not unpleasant, unlistenable, awful or anything like that. It is, however, disappointing. It just lacks the sort of punch which you would expect from a former Nirvana stalwart. Grunge this ain't. This is middle of the road American rock aimed straight at the MTV audience. This is the very antithesis of what anti-establishment Nirvana were about when they turned kids onto a sound and a style which rejected the ephemeral safeties of Reagan-era America, a time when the great bounties brought about by that administration had by-passed a whole generation across wide swathes of the country.
The album chugs along with hardly any highlights. It mingles ponderous, dreary slow-paced ballads with up-tempo rock numbers, fast enough to deserve the label, slow enough not to offend MTV. I have listened to this several times now and I still have not been able to identify that one track which will lead me into the heart of the album. I have therefore come to a conclusion. There isn't one. Without that track, I am left with nothing of any consequence. I have no starting point within it, and only starting points outside it with which to make a comparison. It could never have been another Nevermind, no. But it could have carried some sort of wallop as, say Fantastic Planet or Downward Is Heavenward. Instead, it is a flagrantly blatant attempt to play to the mainstream in an effort to sell as many copies as possible and therefore justify some sort of continued existence.
So where does that leave me? Disappointed - in a way yes. I expected more and got less. Dissatisfied - certainly. Frustrated - most definitely. This is an album which should have taken the Foo Fighters towards new ground. It should have built on the foundations of their first two albums and pushed the band towards a new style and new approach to music. Instead, they have taken the easy route and gone for what is likely to get play on MTV. Could it be that Dave Grohl had finally benefited as an individual from Reaganomics and could no longer see the social alienation which drove him towards music making in the first place? Could it be that he never really was that talented a musician in the first place? Or is it more likely that grunge, or post-grunge, or whatever, slipped back towards the Middle of the Road like all other musical forms do eventually.
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