Don’t Hate the Players by Nathan Hewitt

We ask a lot of our modern rock musicians.

With every release, they’ve got to affirm that in mainstream music not all has gone to shit.

This means cranking the creative bar up ever higher, taking more risks, and blazing new trails.

They’ve got to put up with the pressure of the waning faithful among us. It’s obviously a shitty and relentless responsibility to have.

Guys like Jack White and the Chili Peppers have been picking up the slack for a bit now, and they’ve both respectively held down their forts, but it is time we look to the guy that has consistently brought out some of the best rock music since probably 1987.

Yup, you can set your watches and calendars by him – not just because of his almost bloody seasonal release schedule but ’cause he’s a darn good drummer with an extensive singer-song writing CV to boot.

I first saw Dave Grohl in the flesh in 2009 drumming for Them Crooked Vultures. To date, this project is the benchmark of solid, unaltered, unsullied rock.

It’s strange, it’s dirty, it’s so unique, and it features some of the wackest, groovin-ist, and simplest drum ideas this side of Pert.

The sound is like a more digestible Mars Volta, with Pridgen’s patented “badaboom wa-hey” styling shelled liberally.

Needless to say, Dave stole the show proper.

Talking technique, I’m sure he’s not the most proficient of the bunch, but his drum phrasing and chops have a special thing about them.

They make you do that thing where you kind of half giggle through a cold shiver, and actually whisper, “Shit, yeah” out loud to yourself.

He even had the gusto to outshine the electric John Paul Jones, and if you can do that there must be something in the way you move.

The show ended with some guy in the stands yelling, “Thank you, Jesus!” to a sweaty Dave. He waved, said something like “You’re welcome,” and the entire hall laughed the laugh of the converted.

Now comes Dave’s new gang, the Sound City Players. I was super-psyched about this group when they were first was announced – even if you take out the whole Grohl thing.

Corey Taylor, Stevie Nicks, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Paul damn McCartney, and others.

Wait, what?

The collaboration has been thrown together in part as a musical appendage to Grohl’s new doco, Sound City, and also to commemorate the silently iconic establishment itself.

If you’re a rock enthusiast, this concept has been a long time coming. An all-star ensemble of the greatest in rock, reminiscing their way through their own tunes.

The live performances are pure fun but have the potential to hit future compilations and records. It’s got all the charm of a garage session between mates.

That aside, it sounds so good on paper that I’m amazed they took so long to put it all together.

Dave and a few of the guys from the project have also released a single, dubbed ‘From Can To Can’t’which ironically sums up my opinion of the track, having listened to it several times now.

I want to like it, and it certainly has all the necessary musical and artistic components to be another golden egg from the Grohl-goose, but it comes off the slightest bit flat.

I don’t want to be misconstrued, because I think Corey Taylor sings rich like smoky barbecue sauce.

I think Reznor’s accompaniment is prime Nails fare, and I’m done gushing about Grohl’s drum work.

The formula speaks for itself. It’s an issue all about the subtleties; the foreboding guitar part introduction is well played – duh – but the chord progression is stale and reminds me of Metallica’s Black.

It’s nothing new: chorus pedal, a hollow echo, and you can practically see the dullness of an Ibanez guitar wanting to die.

Taylor’s vocal work is adequate. It’s just kind of there.

Because of his performance, you could easily pigeonhole the tune with any other Stone Sour record.

His influence seems to have been fundamental in the process – there’s a formulaic eased transition from soft to hard (kind of like ‘Through Glass’) – and the melody follows a familiar trend.

The lyrics, at best, are unfocused and forgettable. Grohl is criminally underused. His role in this song is solely one of support.

That’s not a bad thing necessarily, as there no doubt needs to be a tactful and contextual use of elaborate drum sequences in rock songs, but if you had told me he wasn’t even there, I’d agree.

His work in the song is like the stuff of Nick Mason in pretty much any Pink Floyd song; only inappropriate for the kind of rock tune it initially appears to be.

I’ve had a few friends try and explain the hidden appeal in ‘From Can to Can’t’and it may become apparent as I rehear the record, but for now it suffices as generic, over-produced new age sort-of-metal.

The sheer pedigree of the group makes it disappointing. At best, it’s a more marketable Biffy Clyro single.

Despite the misfire, though, there’s little doubt the emblematic Grohl-ness has been, at most, delayed.

Nathan Hewitt


Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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