Aligning yourself with respected and beloved artists is one way to draw attention to your otherwise unremarkable new record. Documenting how it was made on a premium cable channel is another.
“Sonic Highways” is the Foo Fighters’ eighth album and the title of an eight-part HBO series that follows the band across the country as it records in eight cities. It was created by chummy bandleader Dave Grohl and features interviews with notable artists in Chicago, Nashville and other cities that are strategically spliced alongside the band’s song recorded in that city.
On HBO, it’s Dolly Parton and the Foos, Steve Earle and the Foos, Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and the Foos. On record, it’s Joe Walsh and the Foos, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Foos, anyone who can help boost their cred and the Foos.
The respectability-by-proxy pattern is not a new one for Grohl. His 2013 doc “Sound City” focused on a Van Nuys recording studio where landmark albums were made. Guess who appears on the soundtrack with Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney and Rick Springfield?
Dump the HBO series and the “ode to American music” gimmick, and the “Sonic Highways” album is just the latest installment in the Foos’ friendly rock repertoire. Melodic, then explosive, musical dynamics, Grohl’s sing-to-scream vocal pattern and pop song structures so reliable they’d be promoted to manager if they worked at Burger King.
If the Foos’ cross-country scavenger hunt for longevity is any indication, it’s not easy upholding the rock mantle in an era ruled by Taylor and Miley, cruising down the sonic highway, fueled by the greatness of others.