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Foo Fighters stay on track


The Grammy Awards judges seem to love loud, punkish, stadium band the Foo Fighters, which seems odd since the awards aren?t exactly known for being cutting-edge.

Even the band is surprised.

?It?s like, ?Who are these guys?? We?re really gnarly, you know what I mean?? said drummer Taylor Hawkins recently to Orlando Sentinel music critic Jim Abbott. ?We?re just a little rock band.?

Set to award another slew of winners on Feb. 10, the Recording Academy has bestowed four Grammys on the Foos over their 12-year career; the band is up for another five this year-?that?s one more than even Bruce Springsteen-?all for its latest release, ?Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.?

The Foo Fighters, who will play the Oakland Arena this Saturday before heading down to Los Angeles for the Grammy ceremonies, are up for Record of the Year (?The Pretender?), Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Hard Rock Performance (?The Pretender?) and Best Rock Song (?The Pretender?).

Previous Grammy wins came in 2000, 2003 and 2004.

?It?s a stellar accomplishment,? noted Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, a collection of musicians, producers, engineers and recording professionals who annually honor musical excellence via the Grammy Awards.

?The Foos are a band that over the years has exhibited great skills in their writing and performing and recording,? Portnow added. ?That they are broadly accepted has to do with the way they?ve crafted their music of late.?

Former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl is the Foos? singer/songwriter/guitarist and Vans-shod frontman extraordinaire. In addition to Hawkins, Grohl is backed by lead guitarist Chris Shiflett and bassist Nate Mendel.

Grohl?s fearless approach to life and music may also be what appeals to Grammy voters, though there?s no doubt he remains blessed by his noble lineage.

?First, there?s the anointment of Nirvana, still the most influential American rock band of the past 20 years,? said journalist/musician Ted Drozdowski, who writes for Rolling Stone, Musician and the Boston Phoenix. ?Grohl can still wave that banner in the spotlight of success.

?And by having his band on the show, the Grammys share that spotlight and look hipper than they do when J-Lo duets with Antonio Banderas,? Drozdowski said. ?Plus, Grohl remains an original voice in rock and roll, where there?s currently so much derivation and label guidance that most of the music on modern rock radio has a generic sheen.?

Grohl has also got a piece of Nirvana?s only Grammy that the short-lived band won in 1996 (after the death of Kurt Cobain) when ?MTV Unplugged in New York? was recognized as Best Alternative Music Performance.

Fans and critics love Grohl?s hard-core work ethic, frenetic stage presence and songwriting, described as somewhere between punk and its philosophical opposite, FM classic-rock radio.

?This is an anthology of strong new songs by a great bunch of bands, all calling themselves Foo Fighters,? wrote Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke of their new album. ?Grohl used to spread this variety across whole albums... He has finally figured out how to make one record out of all that leeway.?

Raised poor but happy in Springfield, Va., by a single mom, Grohl, who just turned 39, is a high-school dropout who played in four unknown punk bands (including one called Dain Bramage) before striking serious gold with Nirvana.

Married now with a baby daughter, he?s the first to admit he?s living the dream.

?I?ve done almost everything I could possibly ever imagine doing,? he told Spin Magazine in 2005.

He released the first Foo Fighters self-titled album in 1995, a solo effort that Grohl put together less than a year after Cobain?s suicide. The album is based largely on home recordings he had created during his time in Nirvana.

The motivation to begin again so soon after Cobain?s death came after Grohl kept getting offers from different bands (Tom Petty and Danzig among them) to be their drummer. He felt strongly that he needed to come out from behind the drumkit, to write, sing and record his own songs; a kind of cathartic therapy that?s never let up.

Grohl recruited one of Nirvana?s former tour guitarists and a couple of guys from the band, Sunny Day Real Estate, including current bassist Mendel for the Foo Fighters? second album, ?The Colour and the Shape? ? released in 1997 and considered to be the band?s best album. Hawkins, who had been playing with Alanis Morrissette, joined just before the album?s release. Shiflett has been with the Foos since the fourth album, ?One by One.?

With a tireless penchant for nonstop touring and appearances, Grohl wrote the songs on ?Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace? (2007) in about a week, holing up in an isolation booth at Studio 606, the band?s all-purpose recording hub in L.A. Waiting was producer Gil Norton.

?Echoes? has been called more sophisticated and diverse than past Foo efforts, if maybe a little less rocking, too.

?The curveballs include ?Stranger Things Have Happened,? a solo soul-searcher where Grohl?s accompanied by just his acoustic guitar and a ticking metronome,? said Drozdowski.

?But there?s still enough of the intense, snarling power-pop that?s Foo Fighters? longtime forte,? he added. ?The Pretender,? ?Erase/Replace? and ?Long Road to Ruin? combine sheer thrust, zeal and a melody like no other group currently on the charts.?

Grohl has acknowledged that for ?Echoes? he added a more personal, confessional tone to his lyrics.

?I can?t be scared of writing things that I really feel,? he told the Associated Press earlier this month. ?There are a lot of things that I kept myself from saying over the years.?

You can reach Staff Writer Virginie Boone at 521-5440 or virginie.boone@pressdemocrat.com.