Dave Grohl – The Anti-Nirvana ‘Godlike Genius’ Hits Glastonbury


Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

In 2011 Foo Fighters big cheese Dave Grohl nabbed the ridiculous-sounding Shockwaves NME Godlike Genius Award. Since then, I can’t help think it’s all gone to his head. On Saturday night, when Foo Fighters headlined Glastonbury’s legendary Pyramid Stage, Grohl walked out alone. He addressed the crowd like a classic WWF (pre-lawsuit) wrestler cutting a promo. His stadium rock-bred smirk every bit the anti-Nirvana.

“I’m about two years late tonight,” he says. Not “we’re.” “I.” Dave “mother fucking” Grohl. That’s who. In the house… Y’all. And I know he chews gum for his vocals, but it added even more of a Tennessee car salesman, Southern preacher twang to his frequent power speeches.

It reminded me of the time he had security kick a fan out of a 2011 Foo Fighters show at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. “You don’t fucking fight at MY show, asshole,” he said. “Get the fuck out of MY show. Get the fuck out of MY show right now. You don’t come to MY show and fight. You come to MY show and fucking dance, you asshole.” It’s strange. Taylor Hawkins is one of the best drummers in the world. Nate Mendel’s played bass since 1995. Chris Shiflett’s played lead since 1999. And Pat Smear was in Nirvana. Albeit briefly. So why does Grohl talk like they’re his backing band?

I know he gives them each a dance-monkey-dance solo during the set, with their own cringey intros, but that doesn’t take away from moments like these. Still, if you’re a fan of Foo Fighters’ current brand of crowd-pleasing mainstream rock, the band delivers the goods live. Although Grohl’s shouty voice does sound pretty wrestler-like these days as well. And I can’t help but think that, like Grohl, the music’s a million miles away from the urgency, excitement and danger of the band’s origins.


Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

Then, of course, there was the time Grohl fell off stage in Sweden in 2015, broke his leg and did the following U.S. tour in a ridiculous, guitar neck-encrusted throne he designed himself. It looked like the rock version of the Iron Throne. Or something out of Spinal Tap. In that moment, Grohl became the exact kind of self-indulgent rock star Nirvana’s stripped back, more personal ’90s sound was reacting to. Axl Rose asking to borrow said throne when he injured himself is all the proof you need, really.

Look, I’m not disillusioned. Dave Grohl’s 48. He’s rich. He’s successful. He’s one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. Shit, I didn’t used to like blue cheese and camembert but now I love the stuff. We grow. We change. And of course, the striking opposite of Grohl’s larger-than-life rock god existence is the quieter, more plaid and shoulder patch path taken by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Whereas Grohl looks like an older, chubbier version of his former self, Novoselic looks like his high school geography teacher. I imagine.


Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

During the Glastonbury show Grohl kept shouting at the crowd in-between song lines as well. Yelling things like, “Let me hear you!” “Come on!” and “sing it with me!” He sounded like “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan calling out the Undertaker. And to me, it felt like he was killing the songs. Fans will say he was working the crowd, sure. He’s not the cool, brooding frontman, commanding the audience’s attention with sheer intensity. He’s the running up and down the aisles like Bono, pointing at people while his backing band cranks out a ten minute “Monkey Wrench” interlude frontman.

After the gig, the BBC airs a short interview with Dave Grohl. Caught up in his pre-show excitement, Grohl talks about seeing the stage, and how he plans to “light that motherfucker up,” like some kind of kickass cowboy. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He seems nice. But he doesn’t seem cool. On stage. At Glastonbury. With his puffy hair. Constantly pointing. Yelling. And swearing. And the more he swears, thrashes around and talks between songs, the blander and less offensive Foo Fighters seem, as they straddle the middle of the road on top of the world.

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Chris Cornell – Euphoria Mourning RIP Dude

I didn’t get around to posting this in time but I still think it’s worth an “edit” rather than a “trash.” Maybe…

I’ve never been the biggest Soundgarden fan, really. And I always found Audioslave’s combination of styles too weird to get into; Rage Against the Machine’s stripped down rap-rock meets Chris Cornell’s larger-than-life, wailing-crooner crescendos. But I do love Cornell’s first solo album, Euphoria Morning. I listened to it non-stop for months when it came out. My wife (then girlfriend) loves it too. It means something special to us.

I saw Chris Cornell live once, in South Africa, and I saw Soundgarden at Hyde Park. And man, the dude could sing! I still can’t believe the news. Such a bright, iconic, world-conquering light snuffed out in such a sad, lonely, quiet seeming blink of an eye. The “voice of a generation” indeed.

PS, this Rock am Ring 2017 Prophets of Rage Chris Cornell tribute, featuring Serj Tankian on vocals, is pretty special as well. Nothing but love. Nothing but respect.

Rancid – Telegraph Avenue (New Album Trouble Maker Out June 9)

It’s Friday and East Bay punk rock legends Rancid have just dropped another second single, “Telegraph Avenue,” from their June-to-be-released new album Trouble Maker.

Again, it’s a glorified lyric video, really, featuring Rancid jamming in the same garage they rocked for previous single “Ghost of A Chance” – there must have been a two-for-one deal.

And again, frontman Tim Armstrong’s unkempt Castaway beard and black nail polish vibe creates such a strange visual contrast with guitarist Lars Frederiksen’s current smart-dressed American oi! look.

The song sounds great, though. Just like a Friday should. Trouble Maker is out June 9, and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good one. Another comeback. Perhaps, of Indestructible proportions.

The National – The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness (New Album Sleep Well Beast Out September 8)

And then, late one night, it finally happened… I read the news on Instagram first. Dark, broody, articulate groove merchants, The National, are gearing up for total world domination. And it’s a slick operation; cream for North America, yellow for the U.K. and Europe, and an interchangeable barn/house/recording studio logo to match the NEW ALBUM cover. Oh yeah.

The extensive touring, of course, is to promote The National’s new album Sleep Well Beast, which is due out this September 8 on 4AD. And, like any well planned album marketing campaign worth its sponsored post salt, the website’s been overhauled – along with Facebook and Twitter – and there’s already a new single, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” up on Spotify, YouTube, Deezer and everywhere else.

There’s a lot going on with the song itself. From the smooth female vocals that kick things off, to the rib-buttering piano builds and the schizophrenic guitar lick that resurfaces all the way through. And then, finally, the mesmeric drums of Mr. Bryan Devendorf.

I’m not sure exactly what to make of the song – and the guitar solo. I’ve listened to it about ten times, but it’s still sinking in. Like any album by The National, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” needs a context. A flow. A dark surrounding sea of contrasting emotions to tether it to. And I can’t wait to hear how it fits into the rest of the Sleep Well Beast puzzle. Exciting times indeed…

Die Antwoord – Love Drug (From Dangerous to Dawson’s Creek, With Emojis)

What the fuck happened to Die Antwoord? Those guys used to sound so special, like they were riding the cusp of something dangerous, beautiful and bat-shit crazy, all at the same time. Last week, the South African rap-rave duo announced their fifth and “final” album The Book of Zef, and based on boring-as-fuck first single “Love Drug,” it’s clearly time for Ninja and Yolandi to call it a night and move on.

The song starts with a pretty interestingly sung and catchy Ninja whine, but quickly degenerates into a mess of forgettable, lame raps and wannabe Aphex Twin beats that sound more like someone bouncing a flat basketball than anything bucephalus. And the techno wave finale the song rides out on just sounds like something Die Antwoord had lying around on the cutting room floor, leftover from their disappointing third album, 2016’s Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid.

I can’t see any mention that Die Antwoord collaborated with Aphex Twin on the track – it would be funny if it is actually him – but like I say, it doesn’t sound like the real deal. I just hope the rest of the album’s better than this weak, Dawson’s Creek, Emoji take on Die Antwoord.

Rancid’s Ghost Breath Tastes Like Fire – New Album Trouble Maker Out June 9

East Bay punk legends Rancid have just announced that their new album, Trouble Maker, is due out this June 9. And there’s a new single to boot.

The song’s called “Ghost of A chance,” and to be honest, it sounds like a breath of fresh air after the previous two Rancid albums. Unlike 2014’s …Honor Is All We Know, it sounds less like two-dimensional, studded-jacket, raise-your-fist punk, and more like the wistful, heart-on-sleeve poetry frontman Tim Armstrong and his gang of aging tattooed brothers carve up so well.

Even the title’s cooler. More original. More special. And the music, itself, is a forceful throwback to classic, garage-jam Rancid, with the kind of enlightened, bearded wisdom that only comes with age. “You never grow too old to dream.”

Interestingly, it looks like they’re releasing Trouble Maker themselves, under “exclusive license to Epitaph Records.” Only complaint: the album cover…

Can’t Handcuff the Wind – Mindhorn and Julian Barratt, Comin’ At Ya This Friday

One thing the world definitely needs more of is Julian Barratt. And luckily for us, the former pioneering Mighty Boosh jazz maverick’s back, in hilarious-looking new big-screen comedy caper Mindhorn.

Barratt plays washed up actor Richard Thorncroft, who ruled the ’80s as ass-kicking, moustachioed TV detective Bruce Mindhorn. But fast forward 25 years and Thorncroft’s balding, overweight and all but forgotten. That is, until a deranged serial killer refuses to speak to anyone but Mindhorn, who he believes is totally real.

On top of that, Barratt has gone full Howard Moon and dropped a magically cheesy ’80s power ballad as Richard Thorncroft, titled “You Can’t Handcuff the Wind.” Oh yeah. Mindhorn is out this Friday, May 5. Just check out the trailer…

Frenzal Rhomb – Cunt Act (New Album Out May 26)

Too-tough-to-die Aussie punks Frenzal Rhomb have ridden out their latest scare – drummer Gordy Forman snapping his arm in two teaching a fan how to stage dive correctly – and recorded a new album. Finally.

As usual, Frenzal turned to mighty Fort Collins, Colorado studio The Blasting Room, and legendary Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson. And as usual, the production’s beefier than a vegan after a slow-cooked bean curry and a tray of dairy free bran muffins.

Hi-Vis High Tea is due out May 26 on Fat Wreck, and “Cunt Act” is a typically cartoon-crude, smart-punks-playing-dumb taste of what’s to come. Can’t wait…

Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound


Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
Carpark/Wichita (2017)

I’ve got to admit, initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of Cloud Nothings’ new album Life Without Sound. I’d even go so far as to say my first impression was anxious disappointment. “It’s so clean,” I thought. Smoother. Slower. More subdued. And lacking the same threat of imminent rhythmic violence pulsing through the angsty Cleveland, Ohio indie rockers’ 2014 album Here and Nowhere Else.

I wasn’t begrudging Cloud Nothings their success. They worked their arses off touring Here and Nowhere Else. And naturally, this time around, they were always going to sound bigger, bolder and more expensive. But frontman Dylan Baldi’s voice sounds unfamiliar early on, lacking the same desperate rasp and emotional hints of madness I’d come to expect. For lack of a better word, Cloud Nothings sound more… “mature.” Contemplative, that’s it.

But track four, “Darkened Rings,” brings the roof down on that theory. Baldi’s voice sounds raw again. Deeper. Less Ben Gibbard, more Kurt Cobain. And drummer Jayson Gerycz slips back into the busy fills and frantic, aggressive rhythms he brought to Life Without Sounds’ predecessor. It’s a stark, sudden reminder.

After that, things mellow out again, but the melodies and hooks gain momentum and personality. “Modern Act” is an instant classic. A quirky, thoughtful indie rock jam with a bleeding punk rock heart and a chorus that’s catchier than nursery rhymes. Baldi’s voice sounds more natural. You can almost feel his breath in your headphones again, yet the hooks are still poppy enough to infiltrate your brain. “This is more like it,” I thought, as broody, emotional banger “Sight Unseen” builds to its explosive conclusion.

Then penultimate song “Strange Year” heads out in a slower, grungier, more kicking-and-screaming direction that sounds a million miles away from the first three tracks. Before album closer “Realize My Fate” comes on like a funeral procession, as Baldi tackles his own mortality with chugging rhythms, dark melodies, death-marching toms and a mantra that gives way to desperate screams in the dark. It’s an intense, abrupt and final way to bring things to an end.

Life Without Sound definitely peaks towards the middle, where it blends the sweet pop sound of the first few songs and the gutsy, angst-ridden malaise of Here and Nowhere Else perfectly. But there’s enough going on to get into your head, get into your blood and make you feel what they’re feeling.

Shock/Horror – Blink 182 Turn California Into A Double Album

Damn, the deluxe version of Blink 182’s 2016 album California, due out May 19, does look pretty badass. Better than the original, even. But 11 new songs?!!? Come on. I thought the original had four or five songs too many already. At least!

Then again, stoke-building teaser single “Parking Lot” does sound like it should have/could have made the first draft. Let’s say I’m curious, in a guilty pleasure, “I guess this is growing up” kind of way. Still, I strongly suspect cutting both versions down to the strongest 10 or 12 songs would have made for one hell of a solid comeback album.