This album absolutely dominated my sophomore year of college. Before that, I was just a casual fan of the Foo Fighters — I had heard their singles countless times on alternative rock radio. I thought they were cool but I didn’t really identify with them. You see, I have an absolute disdain for so-called “post-grunge,” a style of alternative music consisting of unoriginal acts — and, by extension, their record labels — looking to cash in on the grunge phenomenon of the early ’90s. Given that the Foo Fighters were fronted by Nirvana alum Dave Grohl, it’s not a surprise that the Foos have been lumped into this group. Yet the weird thing is that none of the Foo Fighters’ albums have gone beyond platinum, while other post-grunge, late-’90s/early-’00’s contemporaries like Creed, 3 Doors Down, Nickelback and Linkin Park went well into multi-platinum territory. (Creed’s Human Clay and Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory even entered the diamond domain.)
But there’s no denying that the Foo Fighters have been the most consistent and most omnipresent band on alternative rock radio over the past fifteen years. In fact, I’d argue that their sound hasn’t really changed much since 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. Their 1995 self-titled debut was just a lo-fi demo tape of Grohl’s, but any hopes that the Foo Fighters would honor Kurt Cobain’s more punk sensibilities were dashed with the big-budget, arena rock sound of The Colour and the Shape. But what’s curious is that despite the fact that the Foo Fighters keep mining that same sound, it somehow hasn’t gotten old, at least not to me. Every other band that falls under the post-grunge umbrella has been unable to sustain any kind of lasting popularity, but the Foo Fighters have endured because every other post-grunge band owes something in their sound to them in the first place.
As a result, other bands have come and gone, but the Foos keep kicking around with no signs of slowing down. In fact, their most recent album, 2011’s Wasting Light, is one of their best yet and is an honorable mention. By the fall of 2007, I had long since stopped listening to alternative rock radio. I had kept up with the bands I was already a fan of — such as Incubus and the White Stripes — whenever they released new material, but by this time I was starting to get into the blues a lot more and I even started learning how to play the guitar since my roommate let me play his Fender Stratocaster whenever I wanted. (Strats are still my favorite guitars, though I mostly play on a Les Paul.) It’s kind of surprising to me now that a Foo Fighters album would come out of nowhere to have this huge impact on me, but there was simply no avoiding it.
The lead single “The Pretender” turned out to be the biggest alternative rock radio hit ever, spending a staggering 18 weeks on top of the chart. In the dining hall at school there was some kind of jukebox thing, and “The Pretender” seemed to be on every time I walked in; there was seriously no escaping it. But I didn’t mind, since I loved it. One of my college roommates is a huge Foo Fighters fan and bought Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace when it came out, and, well, that was all we listened to all year. It seriously never left the CD player in his car. (Yeah, he bought the CD. In 2007. Imagine that.) We would go on our inevitable adventures around Miami, and the Foo Fighters would be providing the soundtrack. It somehow just didn’t get old.
I actually can probably credit Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace for getting me interested in alternative music again after spending years in the classic rock wilderness. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I had no perspective. I had kept diving farther and farther back into the past to uncover new secrets and so forth, but I hadn’t taken the necessary step of taking the return journey and learning the narrative threads of all the various branches after unearthing the roots beneath them. As I started to listen to alternative rock again, I was surprised to find myself identifying with it much more strongly than the classic rock I had been listening to for the previous several years. And that process started with Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.