Revisiting Foo Fighters Debut Album - 25 Years On

Foo Fighters never really rode on the coattails of Nirvana after Dave Grohl’s role as the drummer in one of the most influential bands of all time. That’s one of the things I love about them. But at the same time – he always carried a sort of residual energy from those times with them, even through to Foo Fighter’s more accessible releases in recent years.

Here though, we’re looking at their self-titled debut album. It’s grungy, it’s raw but it’s catchy, full of poppy hooks and a pre-cursor to later albums. This week, July 4th will mark 25 years to the day of its release. Yikes. I would say I remember it but I was only 10 at the time and if I remember correctly Monkey Wrench was the song that lured me to Foo Fighters and then I worked my way back from The Colour and the Shape to their self-titled effort.

So we need to delve a little deeper before we get into this debut album. Dave Grohl was drummer of Nirvana. One day Kurt didn’t show for a few practice sessions, so he and Nirvana bassist Krist Noveselic demoed some songs that would later become Foo Fighters tracks, 2 of which made their way to this album; Exhausted and Big Me.

We need to go back further, to 1991. Dave Grohl records 4 songs playing all the instruments himself. These 4 recordings are coupled together with another 6 previously recorded tracks and handed to Simple Machines record label co-founder Jenny Toomey, and it becomes a part of the label’s Tool Cassette Series – a drive to keep cassette tapes alive. It’s released under the pseudonym “Late!” and the album is called Pocketwatch, but it doesn’t get too much traction until after the release of Foo’s debut album when people want more Grohl. It’s funny to think that in 1991 Dave Grohl would be making music that sounds as Foo Fighters then as it does now.

As a side note, back in the late 90s and early 00’s it was SO hard to get hold of this. Online shopping wasn’t as easy, I can’t think if there was anything like YouTube but I think I downloaded it on Lime Wire and it took quite a while as I waited for the 2 other people in the world that had it to come online so I could download. Now I can just type it in and listen to it instantly. The days when you had to work for rarities are gone – and I kind of miss that. When you did get hold of a rarity – man that felt good! I have a Foo Fighters/Ween split single which is now fetching £30 now when I got it for £3. That’s a profit right there.

460 words into the article about Foo Fighters’ debut album and I’ve barely mentioned it.

Where Pocketwatch is 60/40 Grunge/Foo Fighters sound, the self-titled album comes in about 40/60 and these days they probably sit around 20/80 aside from 2011’s Wasting Light, which was a big return to form.

Again, he played all the instruments himself, got 100 cassettes made and handed them out, this time under the name of Foo Fighters as he wanted people to think it was a group.

This album was preceded with the release of This is a Call. It has the poppier, stadium-filling riffs that Nirvana never hit but when the distorted guitar and drums kick in – that’s the energy I inferred to at the beginning of this piece. The live version of this song is bloody good, turning the final third of the song into a heavy metal thrash.

The album leads with This is a Call which segues beautifully into I’ll Stick Around. Dave Grohl rants “I don’t owe you anything” and other lyrics seem like a fuck you to, at first, I thought Kurt Cobain but upon thinking a little more perhaps it’s Courtney Love, with references to control, plans and abuse.

They step it down with Big Me, which featured the camp “Mentos” mint commercial satire video showing off a humorous side that would become another part of the band’s appeal. Alone + Easy Target features some more ranting “Get out get out get out,” “she’s not fun” and “I want out.” Could again be referring to the tumultuous relationship between Kurt and Courtney or even the band and the members themselves, as Alone + Easy Target could refer to him as the third wheel.

Good Grief kicks in and has a great pace that pushes the album towards the halfway point without losing any steam before we head into a bit of a slow jam. Floaty. A slow jam with a punchy chorus. That has become a part of the Foo Fighters trademark sound. Apparently one song on the album is about UFO’s which is of course where the name Foo Fighters stems from. This could be the UFO song. Or it could be about floaters.

I’m going to blast through these songs quicker because I am digressing constantly, Weenie Beenie is my favourite song of the album, the riff cranks and I just love playing it. Oh, George is called that as an ode to Dave’s favourite Beatle, it boasts a lovely guitar sound that is taken from While My Guitar Gently Weeps, written and sung by George Harrison. The lyrics evoke the chaos of a good relationship turning bad as an outsider watches in.

For all the Cows – for me this is so close to what they have become. They take from other rock genres (country in this case) and blast our tits off with a raucous chorus. We’re in a run of songs I love in this album now, X-Static is slow but heavily distorted with pounding drums and subtle vocals, the change of pace is welcomed. Especially when Wattershed comes up next, it’s angry, fast, shouty, it’s great!

Time to slow it down again, but as per with this album the overdrive is turned up to 11 and Exhausted is kinda how we all feel now as we get through this relentless album and it’s final song. It’s a fitting end in sound and lyrics as this album is so emotional – I can’t help but think that the lyrics could be linked to his feeling about his first marriage that ultimately ended 2 years later. I always feel a tinge of sadness as this song ends, you can almost picture Dave, alone, putting down his guitar and walking away from it in a symbolic way to everything that he needed to walk away from. But wait, it’s a false ending and it kicks back in then fades away, it kind of just increases the sadness with the slow fade.

It’s a melancholic end to an album that feels like a farewell to the grunge era in many mays as Foo Fighters really did step into the genre of Rock as time went on. Sure, they’ve stepped back in now and again with songs like White Limo and Run but this album always feels like a “we’re doing this and then we’re done.” Like a final night with a partner that’s bad for you but so much fun. People sometimes have that habit of returning to that partner and I will often return to this album. It feels good, like a night that shouldn’t happen, the “last” drink you shouldn’t have or having a 5th doughnut when you were only going to have a healthy 4. This album is a dirty ex and I absolutely fucking love it.