When the Foo Fighters return fans have been conditioned to expect a chart-topping, pit-sparking, banger of the highest order. “All My Life”, “Best Of You”, “The Pretender” and “Rope” blazed the trail for the Foos’ last four albums by dominating the radio waves and the festival circuit respectively - so it would be reasonable to expect another rip snorter in 2014, right?
Well no, not exactly. “Something For Nothing” is no ordinary Foo Fighters single and the forthcoming Sonic Highways is not your typical run of the mill once-every-three-years album. In association with HBO, the Foos will debut an eight part documentary series. Each instalment will be set in a different American city and come complete with a brand new Foo Fighters track inspired by and recorded in that very metropolis. Famous friends and musical guests will collaborate with the band at each location. The Foos work with rap legend Chuck D in New York and country superstar Carrie Underwood in Nashville, for example.
“Something For Nothing” is our first taste of the project. It was recorded at the Electrical Audio facility in Chicago and features Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen. To find out exactly how the track represents the Windy City, its people and Dave Grohl’s own experiences, we’ll have to watch the documentary – but, as a piece of music, “Something For Nothing” is electrifying.
Picking up where 2011’s Wasting Light left off, “Something For Nothing” feels markedly earthy. The Foo Fighters sound hungry and strangely vital. Dave Grohl’s vitriol and throat shredding howls aren’t remotely theatrical and certainly aren’t designed to soundtrack any sort of Hollywood blockbuster. This is the primal work of a band with a point to prove, not a group of multi-millionaires resting on their laurels.
The Foo Fighters need to harness whatever Dave Grohl found in Chicago (or whatever the city stirred up within him). The songwriting is stately and reflective; the usual platitudes and play on words still exist but they are buttressed by a solemnity of tone and grander ambitions. Grohl harnesses his larger than life surrounding to forge bolder imagery: “Here lies a city on fire, singing along, the arsonists choir, now here I go”.
“Something For Nothing” is still a Foo Fighters track; so rather than being a mood piece that broods atop elastic metropolitan guitar work, the track builds towards one grand cathartic explosion. The release, however, is far from a pandering exercise in feel good, fists-in-the-air, box ticking – this is a lung-busting moment of me against the machine triumph. Grohl explodes as a wall of cranium splicing guitar noise becomes too much to bear. Defiantly, he refuses to let the world or music industry wash away his sense of self, screaming: “You can’t make me change my name…Fuck it all I came from nothing – I’m something for nothing”.
Given the state of the global economy and worsening living standards this outburst feels incredibly timely and strangely important (something that can rarely be said about a Foo Fighters single). “Something For Nothing” isn’t an obvious radio friendly hit, but it is the kind of track that gets fans genuinely excited about a new album.
Best of all, it’s a Foo Fighters track whose scream-laden finale won’t be prefaced by a “let’s go!” or “get ready!” – it might become a sing along – but “Something For Nothing” it’s far too serious and far too severe for that.
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