Fave Five: Musicians (#3)

Here’s part 3 of a 5-part series on the favorite musicians of me and Alex Brewer…

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Kevin Brown: Brewer, I’d love to tell you I spent all day listening to Wilco.  However, the Black Keys’ “El Camino” kept calling my name.  A damn fine album, I must say.  Too bad neither of those gentlemen in the band will be making my list.

Frank the Dinosaur might, though.

What’s new?

Alex Brewer: Nothing special. After writing that review last night, I binged pretty hard on Wilco and the next band I will be discussing.

Side note: “All of the Lights” came on the radio today while I was driving. I turned it up. It was great.

Who do you got for #3?  

KB: Fast cars.  Shooting stars.  What a wonderful song.

Let’s zip right along, shall we?

3. Dave Grohl

There’s not much nuance when it comes to Dave Grohl, the current Lord of Rock and Roll (even with the Foo Fighters now on hiatus).  This is a man who, at the Grammys earlier this year, said of his music “it’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer.”  This is a man who is here to Rock with a capital R, and I don’t know that’s there anyone else alive right now with more passion for rock and freaking roll than Dave Grohl.

And above all things, that’s why I love this man.  Going to a Foo Fighters concert is a near-religious experience, with Grohl possessing a tireless amount of energy and enthusiasm while shredding his vocal chords from minute to minute.  Grohl’s right up there with Bruce Springsteen and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong in terms of that live energy.  I’ve only seen those three people completely control the crowd with not just their music, but their love of the performance, in all the concerts I’ve attended.  Grohl’s guitar riffs may not be changing the medium, but that immense admiration for music alone is enough to give him serious consideration on this list.

Of course, passion alone doesn’t earn you a spot on the Top 5 Musicians.  Nope.  But Mr. Grohl here is a unique case.  Not only is he a guitarist – and a damn good one, I might add, based on his live riff improvisations – but he’s famously a drummer as well, and one of the best around.  Grohl, of course, got his major breakthrough as drummer for Nirvana, just in time for the group’s breakthrough classic Nevermind.  While Nirvana, songwriting-wise, was essentially all Kurt Cobain, it’s no coincidence that Grohl’s arrival coincided with the group’s explosion.  I love listening to Nevermind for the drums…the pounding arrival of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the mid-guitar flourishes of “In Bloom”, the fiery introduction to “Breed”…it’s all outstanding.  I’m reading a book on Grohl at the moment, and it seems just about everyone who played with him or knew him will vouch for him as the most energetic and – well, best – drummer they ever knew.

If that doesn’t do justice to Grohl’s drumming ability, well consider this – Tom Petty asked him to be the full-time drummer for The Heartbreakers.  (He declined, obviously.)  He played drums for Paul McCartney in England.  He’s the drummer in a side project, Them Crooked Vultures, with Josh Homme and John Paul Jones.  In fact, Grohl and Jones get along so well that Jones has played on the Foo Fighters’ In Your Honor (as did Homme), and Jones – along with Jimmy Page – joined the Foos at Wembley Stadium in 2008.  He inducted Queen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of a quickly-struck up friendship with Brian May.  He plays all the drums on Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf, probably the band’s best album.  He’s played drums for Nine Inch Nails, Tenacious D, Garbage, Slash, Michael Jackson, The Prodigy…and I could go on and on, but this needs to be posted tonight.

Point being – this man is rock and roll royalty.  And that’s all with an instrument he hasn’t played in his main band for 15 years.

By the way, in case you still think he’s a one-trick pony, let me refer you to In Your Honor, a double album.  The first 10 songs are all straight-up rock and roll, while the next 10 songs are all acoustically based.

Brewer, since we’ve seen them live together, I expect you to agree with everything I’ve just written.

AB: I gotta be honest with you, Dave was #6 for me if we did a top six…but we didn’t…we did a top five…so there’s that.

At the concert we attended, we sat in the upper deck of a large hockey arena (I refuse to acknowledge where it was because I am still extremely bitter about the Patriots loss that day).  Even as far up as we were, the energy Dave brought to that entire place was still electric.  He is without a doubt the king of rock and roll right now.  No question in my mind.

Right now, Grohl is making a documentary about the Sound City Studios in LA.  For those of you not familiar with that building, Nirvana recorded the music-changing album Nevermind there.  Dave is creating a film that talks about not only that studio, but about the lost art of analog recording (for the record, Wasting Light by the Foo Fighters was recorded in a garage on analog tape…epic).  For music production geeks like myself, this movie is going to be OUTSTANDING.

Like you were saying…this man lives for rock and roll.  I have no issue with this pick…and I honestly didn’t put him in my top five just to be different.

So, Brown…you ready for my #3 pick?

KB: No, not yet!  I wanna talk some more about Dave Grohl.  (Also, it was Buffalo.)

Does this look familiar?

Because you just mentioned it, how awesome is it that Wasting Light – my favorite Foo Fighters album, by the way – was recorded in a freakin’ garage?  Granted, Dave Grohl’s garage is definitely not anything like your garage or my garage, but come on.  The passion, the primal nature of his music is refreshing, and it’s no wonder that everyone in the music industry seems to Love him.  Well, save for Courtney.

Here are some of the people interviewed for or involved in this project: Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, Rick Rubin, Mick Fleetwood, Lars Ulrich, Krist Novoselic, Frank Black, Josh Homme, Corey Taylor, Butch Vig.  Et cetera.

Did I mention he cameos in The Muppets?

AB: He’s an epic, epic man. This proves it.

Are we ready to talk about my pick now?  As much as I love Dave, I want to go!

KB: Ow…widdle liddle diddle liddle diddle do…

OK, the floor is yours.

AB:

3. Jack White

Right off the bat…let me start by saying you are going to see a very distinct trend with my top three.  I enjoy musicians that can be one-man bands.  They can survive without their accompaniment.  They transcend even their bands’ sound.  So begins my tale of Jack White…

Before there were The Black Keys…there were the White Stripes, a two-piece rock/blues band out of Detroit, MI who rocked the music scene in the early 2000s.  From that point on, Jack White became cemented into rock and roll for the same reasons Dave Grohl has been.  He brings an insane energy to music, he is a huge fan of analog recording, and he may the biggest supporter of vinyl records that exists in this world.

If you haven’t ever seen or been to a live show that Jack White plays in, you need to do so.  He’s just one of those musicians that can take over a song and make it his own.  The versatility he possesses on all common rock instruments is up there with the best of them.  His strengths in songwriting are blues and rock, which gives his music a very modern, yet classic, rock feel (if that makes sense).  He has collaborated with nearly everyone on the planet (much like Grohl), and has taken three bands to successful heights (The Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather).

Along with all of the reasons above, Jack White is just a once-in-a-lifetime musician.  I think it’s actually really cool how he has somehow managed to not be in the spotlight, but dominate rock at the same time.  He is one of those musicians you forget about, but when you remember, you jam to his music like it’s the first time you’re hearing it.

White released a solo album in April of this year…and it rocks.  Now, personally, I love “bank” artists.  I just coined this phrase as I’m writing this…but by that, I mean an artist that you know you can bank on for good music.  I have never been disappointed by music that Jack White has made, and I always look forward to the next.

At the end of the day, I think White will go down as a forgotten rock star.  He tends to shy away from attention, and he hates to reveal personal information on his life.  I found this quote when I Googled him before I wrote this, and I think it sums him up perfectly.  The quote refers to why he doesn’t ever talk about his personal life…

“It’s the same thing as asking Michelangelo, ‘What kind of shoes do you wear?’…In the end, it doesn’t really matter…the only thing that’s going to be left is our records and photos.”

Well said, Jack.  Well said.

Did I do Jack White justice, Brown?

KB: You certainly did.  I thought you had some other names in mind, and I’m somewhat surprised to see this…but at the same time, I’m really not.  Jack White’s guitar makes sounds that guitars aren’t supposed to make.  It sounds like the instrument’s going to light on fire every time he strums it.  I’m all for this pick.

Oh my god!!!! It’s Jack White’s guitar!!!!

I was actually listening to a few songs off of Blunderbuss (his new solo album) earlier and thoroughly enjoying the proceedings.  Did you know Josh Homme has about a one-second cameo in his video for “Freedom At 21”?  Do you have any idea why?  And does Josh Homme get any royalties out of the fact that we keep mentioning him in this post?

With Jack White…I get the feeling that no matter what project he attaches himself to, he makes it distinctly Jack White.  Solo, White Stripes, Raconteurs, whatever – there’s a Jack White song that you’re going to get no matter who he’s playing with.  And I can dig that.

AB: …much like Dave Grohl, too.  This has been a solid, rock and roll filled review.  I feel like I need to sit in my room and blast solos for the next two hours.

Speaking of weird sounds coming out of guitars…wait until the #2 pick on my list. That’s called a tease in the business.

KB: That’s why he works in radio, folks.

But you know we’re not getting out of here without some sort of bonus lists, right?

Top 3 Foo Fighters songs…top 3 Jack White-related songs…and one song from each artist that you’d want the other one to collaborate on.  So, say, you want to hear Dave Grohl scream “OH, OH-OH-OH-OH, OHHHHHHHH, OHHHHHHH!” on “Seven Nation Army”…that’s one of your possible picks.

Visual aid for your imagination of the above scenario.

AB: That is my pick.  That would be unreal.  I’m stealing it.

Jack White:

3. “Ball and Biscuit”

2. “Steady, As She Goes”

1. “Seven Nation Army”

Dave Grohl:

3. “Times Like These”

2. “Rope”

1. “Best of You”

(Side note: I love how “Seven Nation Army” has become this anthemic sports song.  Now, all crowds want to do is chant it (yeah, I’m looking at you Molly and Vandall).  I love it.

KB: Did you just shout out to your girlfriend on the blog?  For shame.

Anyway, you unoriginal thief, here are my lists…

For the Foos, “Learn To Fly”, “Everlong” and “Times Like These”.  The first two are in my top eight songs ever, and the third is in my top 15, probably.  Also, “Come Back” leads my list of the Top One Most Completely Underrated Foo Fighters Songs.

As for Jack…”The Denial Twist”, “Icky Thump”…and yeah, let’s not try and ignore the fact that “Seven Nation Army” is just awesome in its simplicity.  So I’m all Stripes there.

Yep, these are the people who created the greatest stadium anthem of the year.

Collaboration-wise…the Foo Fighters’ “Rope” is a serious three-guitar punch to the gut, so let’s put Jack on there and make it four!  And I’m replacing Alicia Keys with Grohl on Bond theme “Another Way To Die”.  “Someone that you think that you can TRUST!  Is JUST!  WAHHHHHHH!  Another way to DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”  Look me in the eye and tell me that wouldn’t be amazing.

AB: Oh, man.  That would be epic beyond epic.   Can we get in contact with these guys and tell them about this?  Or maybe we just hope they read this blog…

Either way, two awesome musicians that we will always be talking about.  Man, these reviews have gone by quickly!  We only have two more to go!

KB: You are using way too many exclamation marks for this blog.  By the hand of God, I will strike thee down!

(See, that was an appropriate place to use an exclamation mark.)

Until tomorrow…

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Alex Brewer (@ACBrew) is a contributing writer for “Kevin Reviews Things”. Hailing from the lost and forgotten state of Maine, Alex enjoys music no one would think he listens to, Boston sports teams, and Starcraft 2 a little too much. 

Follow Kevin on twitter @kevinnbrown.

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