Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sonic Boyways

A few years ago, I would have agreed that a single show could have at least contributed to the systemic erasure of women in various aspects of the music industry -- as performers, songwriters, producers, even as fans. But Julienne Escobedo Shepard makes an important, if contradictory, distinction here -- Sonic Highways is a fan letter, a catalog of Dave Grohl's personal influences, and being a white boy in rock, most of those influences are other white boys in rock. (There's a noticeable shortage of people of color and LGBT performers, too.) Shepard says:
Granted, the series was never going to be anything but a rockist-dad summation of Grohl's memories; in the 20 years since Foo Fighters have been a band, formed in the wake of a devastated Nirvana, Grohl has shown himself increasingly to be not much more than a rock and roll formalist, the type of man who is a dying breed: guitars and drums subsume all other instruments, where the riff is king and the rock blocks are fully cocked. In 2012, he famously accepted Foo Fighters' Best Rock Grammy with a speech that sounded like a barking father, wagging his disappointed pick-finger at a generation lost on computers and perfection. After being harangued by the internet, he clarified that he did not mean he hated electronic music (#NotAllGrohls), but that he is concerned only with the amount of heart a musician devotes to his tunes, and that he himself enjoys artists "from Kyuss to Kraftwerk, Pinetop Perkins to Prodigy, Dead Kennedys to Deadmau5."
But now? Eh. I think had Grohl pitched Sonic Highways as a Ken Burns-esque completist history of rock, yeah, that would be a problem, but I'm not really that worked up about it. Maybe it's because I'm closer to Grohl's age than your average Jez reader and grew up listening to all those dude bands too that I'm incapable of watching it with nothing less than misty-eyed nostalgia, or maybe I just want to enjoy something and not have to comb through it for all its problematic parts.