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#1 Posted on 21.10.14 1727.20 Reposted on: 21.10.21 1728.06
For those that don’t know, Sonic Highways is an eight-part documentary series on HBO that chronicles the creation of the Foo Fighters’ latest album (of the same name). The album is sort of a concept album: the band travels to eight different U.S. musical hubs and records one song each for the album.
Allegedly, prior to this massive road trip, the band had the basic musical structure in place for each song, which is influenced in some way by the musical history of the cities to which they would be traveling. They then spent one week at a famed recording studio in each city, where they would finalize the song. While in the city, Dave Grohl conducted extensive interviews with local musical legends. These interviews inspired the lyrics to each song, which Dave wrote. Each track would also include work from a guest musician (someone local and famous). Each episode of this TV series would be mostly comprised of a) Dave’s interviews, b) time spent in the recording studio and c) Dave’s narration about the musical history of each city with a slew of archive footage. The episode concludes with the unveiling of the completed track with accompanying music video.
The eight cities are Chicago, DC, Austin, Seattle, LA, Nashville, New Orleans and NYC.
The first episode, which debuted last Friday, was the Chicago episode. The Chicago track is titled “Something From Nothing”.
A significant piece of the episode was devoted to the history of Chicago blues, mostly centered around Dave’s interview with Buddy Guy. There was also some talk about the Chess Records label, including notable acts Muddy Waters and Little Walter, and a brief interview with Bonnie Raitt. Dave’s interview with Buddy Guy inspired the vast majority of lyrics for the Chicago track.
Another significant portion of the episode was devoted to Steve Albini, who runs the Chicago production studio (Electrical Audio) at which FF recorded the track. Steve is the founding member of Chicago-area punk band Big Black. He is intially presented as a pretentious prick, but we come to learn of his selfless devotion to the musicians with whom he works. He has run into significant financial difficulties over the years because he refuses to accept royalties on any music produced in his studio, which causes him to leave money on the table...in some cases, A LOT of money, most notably on Nirvana’s In Utero.
There is also a smaller bit on Cheap Trick, and in particular, Rick Nielsen, who is the guest musician on the Chicago track.
As for the track itself...if you’re a FF fan, you’re likely going to love it. It features some deep, rich guitar work. It starts off slow and low and eventually builds its way to the fast and loud FF sound you might be accustomed to. Lyrically, you might think of it as an anthem for Buddy Guy, since the most significant lyrics were pulled directly from the interview.
I’m a HUGE FF fan, so I will be all over this show. Two things I might call negatives:
-The promotion for the show might make you think this show (and this album) were *all* about the universally acclaimed musicians that made their mark in these cities, but after watching, you come to realize it’s almost as much about what influenced Dave Grohl’s specifically punk leanings.
-The Chicago single was released the day before this show debuted, and I listened to it a number of times before watching. Part of why I liked it *before* the show aired was because of the lyrics, which had an air of mystery about them...you weren’t really quite sure what they meant. For me, listening to the song *after* the showed aired felt a little disappointing, because you realize certain lyrics were taken verbatim from the Buddy Guy interview. Honestly, it came across as a little cheesy.
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