I should first explain that these two bands aren’t in the middle of a feud or planning a ruck (as far as I know). Having said that, you’d have to think that although the members of Radiohead outnumber that of the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl could probably take both Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood with one hand tied behind his back and a beer in the other. No, this is more about their approaches to being part of the music business.
Radiohead produced what was quite simply one of the best albums ever made, ‘OK Computer’. Following that critical acclaim and commercial success, they basically disappeared up their own backsides with their next two albums, and re-emerged partially for ‘Hail to the Thief’. Thom Yorke said of their fourth and fifth studio albums “If you look at the artwork for Kid A… well, that´s looking at the fire from afar – Amnesiac is the sound of what it feels like to be standing in the fire”. But the reality was that ‘Amnesiac’ was the sound of what it feels like to be listening to something that really wasn’t any good. Or what it feels like to have wasted £9.
So, I was interested to hear that Radiohead are trying to be too clever and too different all over again. Their new album ‘In Rainbows’ is not available on CD (yet). Instead, you can download it from their web site having paid a sum of money which you decide upon. It would seem fair to say “okay, average price of a CD is £9, so I’ll pay them £9”. However, since I paid a combined £18 for ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’, and given that the two of them spawned only four decent tracks, I’d say Radiohead owe me money. So when I do download ‘In Rainbows’ I reckon £2 will be fair.
Let’s turn our attention to the Foo Fighters. While Radiohead were trying to reinvent the world of music and music-based commerce, the Foo Fighters have followed a more traditional approach… write an album, record an album, tour, play festivals, tour some more, and repeat. While Radiohead brood in a studio somewhere, Dave Grohl, a man with almost God-like status in the rock world, will cheerfully give interviews and guest-star on other artistes’ works. Maybe that’s why the Foo Fighters’ new album ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ is so damn good.
Every Foo Fighters album so far has been reliably excellent, although in my opinion ‘In Your Honor’ was a slight dip. ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ puts them well back on track, and it’s never been so evident that Grohl is an excellent song writer, a vocalist with a huge range (from silky crooning to screaming), and a talented musician (guitar, drums, and now the piano).
The album starts with a typical Foo Fighters offering, the single ‘The Pretender’, and roars along until it gets to one of the stand-out tracks, the mainly acoustic ‘Stranger Things Have Happened’ – and here’s the prime example of Grohl’s song-writing skills. Back to the guitars with ‘Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)’ and then back to the mellow with the radio-friendly ‘Summer’s End’.
‘Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners’ is the only skip-over track, and towards the end comes the outstanding piano and vocals of ‘Home’ – an instant classic on the first listen. £9 well-spent would seem to be better than £2 badly-spent.