Sonic Highways is an ambitious, gratuitous, cheeky chess move from Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters front man with sure fire ants in his pants. It’s an audio/visual testament preserving the sights and sounds of American rock and roll roots, and on some levels it’s a monumental piece of art.
The record and accompanying television series, though virtually the same in finished product, end up drastically divided. The band takes you on a ride from Chicago to DC, LA to NY, and everywhere in between. Still heroic and massive, the Foo Fighters are one of those rare juggernauts that simply get better over time. But the album and the show seem only to work in unison.
The HBO show is a vibrant success from opening sequence to closing credits. The eight part series chronicles the cities inhabited by the band while writing and recording the final tracks, illustrating the stylized road map that Grohl had in mind. The episodes are mini-documentaries full of raw sentiment and expert editing; a heaping plate of nostalgia piled high for audiophiles to devour. It’s worth watching, more than once.
The record does little to stand on its own. The songs take shape while shifting between sections both punishing and painstakingly sequenced. Super producer Butch Vig reaches deep into his bag to deliver a clean, powerful eight tracks. But it’s hard not to compare the finished product to the super pop of Foo Fighters past. Watching the show will help you appreciate the reach of each and every lyric, but a first listen without the HBO companion may have you chuckling at Grohl’s gut wrenching sentiment.
Sonic Highways may be a first of its kind. It’s a history lesson captured in one glimmering collection of sights, sounds, and confessions from some of musics most intricate minds courtesy of Dave Grohl, rock and roll’s sleaziest politician. We love him for it, and why wouldn’t we? We do it bigger and better in America, and the Foo Fighters figured that out decades ago. Our hero.