"Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways" (HBO, Fridays). It's often the case nowadays that a big-time recording artist or act will accompany a new release with a making-of documentary, and is sometimes the case that that documentary, which is, after all, a kind of commercial, will make its way to some respectable television outlet that will present it as something above and apart from an ad. (Just as I finished writing that sentence, the United Parcel Service delivered a DVD screener of "Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued," a "Showtime® Documentary" set to air Nov. 21; this is like that.) But "Sonic Highways" is something different and literally more -- it's an eight-part series, created and directed by Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl, who previously directed the 2013 documentary feature "Sound City," about a fabled San Fernando Valley recording studio, to which "Sonic Highways" is a kind of peripatetic sequel. And although it features the band recording and performing songs from its about-to-drop new album, it is more generally about the making of music and the making of musicians, as the ineluctable product of influences and experiences; and the historical sound-culture of the several cities in which the Foo Fighters traveled to make what I still call their new "record"; and the creation of community and of character.
The series moves to a new city each week -- Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; Nashville; Los Angeles; Seattle; New Orleans; and New York are the stops -- and from one legendary studio to another; in each, the band, on a reality-show timetable, works up a song meant in some way to reflect the city they're in. (The Chicago and Washington episodes have been sent for review, and both are splendid.) Grohl piles a lot into each hour, darting back and forth between subjects and between now and then in a way that seems random only if you stop to think about it, and once you think about it doesn't seem random at all.
The Chicago episode brings in as accompanying main subjects blues guitarist Buddy Guy; Cheap Trick (Rick Nielsen adds baritone guitar to the series' first recording); and upright producer Steve Albini, who refused a percentage on
For Grohl -- at 45, a rock elder statesman and as much a fan as ever -- the music community includes not just players and producers, record-shop proprietors, club owners and motivated fans. Narrating, he sometimes overstates his case to sell his premise, but rock is often an art of overstatement -- I was about to write "and no one ever died from an overdose of sincerity," but I'm not sure that's true. In any case, what he's made here is exciting, beautiful and moving.
"Twin Sisters" (