As Dave Grohl and company wait to release their eighth studio album after 20 years of existence, their accompanying HBO documentary not only gives us a fascinating insight into the multiple facets of the record’s creation but also serves as what Grohl described to be a “love letter to American music”.
Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways records the process of the band making their latest album as they travel the country, recording each song in a different city. This is paired with interviews with notable figures of the music scene of that city which Grohl uses as inspiration to write lyrics before the finished track is unveiled at the end of the show.
Following up on his directorial debut, Sound City, Grohl has produced far more than a typical making-of documentary with Sonic Highways. In the premiere episode, a number of interviews with notable figures including producer Steve Albini and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen walks us through the musical heritage of Chicago while lead single “Something for Nothing” is being recorded.
As well as educating us and seeing how these cities have influenced the music that has come from them, we witness how the interviews have a direct impact on the lyrics of the song recorded there with Grohl going as far as quoting them word for word in parts. It’s far from a history lesson with Grohl’s own bias and opinion impacting what is told and what is excluded but there is enough scope to make it a comprehensive account as well as absorbing viewing.
While fans will have to wait until November 10th to hear the finished product of the band’s cross-country adventure, they will be hoping that this ambitious venture will result in the band’s most rewarding record to date. It’s rare to see long-standing bands such as Foo Fighters break new ground like this when it comes to the process of making an album. When referring to the process of doing this, Grohl said he wanted to “make it more of a challenge”. While the scale of the project may boost the album’s expectations, claims such as this which may create doubts on whether or not the quality of the music can eclipse that of the band’s Grammy award-winning Wasting Light.
Nevertheless, this documentary offers plenty to diehard fans, casual listeners and lovers of all types of music. The fact that musical history, recording footage, personal insights and a live performance can be blended into one 60 minute show is an impressive feat in itself. Grohl can pride himself in the story he has told through this documentary and how he will introduce thousands of viewers to a new collection of diverse music. With any luck, the album will be just as memorable.
Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways airs on BBC Four Sunday night at 10pm. The album of the same name will be released on November 10th.
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