All entries for February 2008

February 07, 2008

Road to Ruin

2 out of 5 stars

[To determine the rating of two stars I have devised a formula whereby Number of Stars = Utility ÷ Price where a utility score of 10 gives multiple orgasms, but a score of 1 results in the CD being thrown out the window.]

The scope of consumerism has been broadened in recent years as a matter of conscience. We no longer see the purchase of an item or the use of a service as an interaction solely between consumer and provider, but we consider the wider consequences of each transaction. The carbon footprint is a topical example, a term carrying an alarming sense that the pollutants emitted by our means of travel will have permanent consequences for the environment. Food miles too are totted up in view of the fuel consumption in their transport and the cost to local producers of similar goods. Fair trade is a movement that reminds us that the lowest prices usually imply that, somewhere along the line, someone is getting a bad deal.

In the spirit of this enlightened capitalism I have invented what I term the Grohl Input Level. It measures what effect an individual’s activity as a consumer has on Dave Grohl’s life. For example, I have a quite comprehensive Nirvana collection, including singles and duplicate copies on vinyl and CD, every Foo Fighters album, many of their singles, a live DVD, and I have seen the band live on five occasions, as well as patronising some of Grohl’s side projects. Hence, I’d like to think that there is some tangible evidence of my custom in the Grohl estate. Perhaps the furry dice in his BMW can be attributed to my purchases. Or maybe when he has dinner guests over he asks Taylor Hawkins to be careful with the Chris Murray candlesticks, for crying out loud.

My latest doorstop chez-Grohl will be purchased when Dave and co receive their per diem royalty cheques for their latest record, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. The opening track, ‘The Pretender’, is typical, high-octane Foo Fighters, with Chris Shiflett providing some rockabilly-tinged guitar that I’m not sure about. It draws from a familiar vocabulary of aggression and contrariness. The second song, ‘Let It Die’ is great, building up gradually from pretty acoustic picking to enraged racket. ‘Erase/Replace’ bears the influence of producer Gil Norton, working with the band for the first time since 1997’s excellent pinnacle for the band, The Colour and the Shape. It’s really track 4, ‘The Long Road to Ruin’, that sets off the alarm bells.

I have tried hard to love this record.

‘The Long Road to Ruin’ is an objectionable piece of work. The lyrics are staggeringly awful lists of clichés that don’t mean anything:

Dear God, I’ve sealed my fate,
I’m running through hell,
Heaven can wait!

It’s also in this song, indicative of the band’s arena rock status, that for the first time we hear the Foo Fighters delivering a straight-up, scale-based guitar solo, which is like a slap in the face. It’s small fry, however, compared to the Leviathans of Wrong that are the two piano songs, ‘Summer’s End’, and ‘Home’, weepy and Springsteen-esque. Of the instrumental ‘Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners’ I ask what entitlement one has to name something a ‘ballad’ that does not have any words, and while I commend the dedication of music to two imperilled fans, I wonder whether it is a fitting tribute to commemorate them in a track that is devoid of emotion.

On Kerrang’s TV channel, the video for ‘The Pretender’ has been aired with a banner featuring Grohl’s comment that the band ‘threw this song together in the studio’. I think it’s indicative of the problem with this record: the songs are not written well, and this may be because they don’t put enough time into it. All the high studio-production available doesn’t paper over the cracks in this record. And so we leave them to their arena tours. Next time he’s out this way, I think Grohl owes me a coke.

February 2008

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