FILM REVIEW - Foo Fighters - Back & Forth

If you were there since the beginning when Foo Fighters came together and had told Dave Grohl that he made his success look easy, he’d be sure to say, “Easy for you to say!” as his song on the new album implies, “These Days.”

The Foo Fighters documentary, Back & Forth, marks a 17-year career stretch for the band.  Though it is not the end of the band, if they were to stop playing today their legacy would certainly be complete.   Their documentary reveals just how much the band has slowly grown over all those years and how nothing good came without a ‘back and forth’ kind of struggle. 

As most people probably know, Grohl was the drummer of the ultimate grunge band, Nirvana.  When singer/songwriter, Kurt Cobain had committed suicide on April 9th, 1994, he, of course, did not immediately start a new band.  Nirvana was huge and he had learned a lot from Kurt, as he mentions, so it was not something he could just walk away from unscathed. 


“At some point, I was finally motivated.  I was going to get myself out of this funk for eight months or whatever it was.  I decided I was going to take my favourite songs that I had written over the last four or five years, that no one had heard and I was going to record them at 24-track studio down the street.”

He ended up recording a full-album, which would eventually become the band's first, in which he recorded to cassette tape with the name Foo Fighters on it. 

However, he couldn’t very well tour doing it alone, so he sought out to find some worthy musicians.  That’s when he discovered the raw melody of Nate Mendel’s (Sunny Day Real Estate) bass and heart-pounding ability of drummer, William Goldsmith.

“This was the first time we had ever met someone as famous as Dave Grohl,” said Mendel, “we knew he was that amazing drummer in Nirvana.” 

Needless to say, they were a little dumbfounded that he’d be approaching them.  So they hooked up right away and started jamming. 

Next on the list was Pat Smear, the other guitar player of Nirvana and former member of the well-known punk band, The Germs.  He flew out from sunny California to meet the band in Seattle and because of his skills he was a shoe-in.   

In the years to come they produced Grohl’s first album and The Colour and The Shape that went on to win a Grammy.

This quickly simmered down the angry birds that were furious he’d start up a new band so soon, let alone with a band name like, Foo Fighters. 

            “If I could go back and change anything, it would be our band name.  It’s like the worst fucking band name in the history of rock and roll!,” Grohl exclaimed.            

Not so much, if you knew the meaning was that of World War fighter planes.

“There were some people who really resented me for starting this band,” Grohl reflects, “How dare you start another band?  Why would you start another band like Nirvana?  You mean loud guitar and clashing cymbals?  Because … that’s what I do.  What, you want me to make a reggae album?”

That wasn’t the only aspect getting him down though.  The band had already started to break apart, after releasing their second album.

“When I’ve written a song I have a clear idea of where the basic root accents should lie.  That’s a fancy way to say, I know what the drums should sound like, as I’m doing this thing,” Grohl said. He admitted he felt bad about rewriting all of Goldsmith’s notes on the second album, but it just wasn’t “gelling” with the music he wrote.  Goldsmith had no interest in staying if he couldn’t put his mark on anything. 

Soon after that Smear left too, not because of Goldsmith but because he was simply tired of the band thing.


Since they were in LA and had heard the monster of a drummer, Taylor Hawkins, who played for Alanis Morisette's band, they decided he would be a good pick, but they were skeptical he’d join as Morisette was blowing up.  The conversation had went like this, “Hey man, do you know any good drummers?” Grohl asked Hawkins, in which he replied, “Um, yeah…I’ll be your fucking drummer!  Give me a try.”

There’s Nothing Left To Lose
, their third album, which won four Grammy’s, was a statement to what Foo Fighters had just endured. 

Grohl was not satisfied with three musicians still, although, and so they recruited Chris Sheflett, who happened to play in a band that opened up for Grohl’s first band, Scream.

Finally, after ten years, Foo Fighters could finally consider themselves complete.  Every member of the group had something to offer and every musician meshed well with the other.  It was the perfect chemistry.

They produced four more great albums after that, at full strength and even Pat Smear came back to join the band after missing it all.

Wasting Light, their latest album (released on Tuesday, April 12) is simply a collage of all the music they have written over the years, only ten-times better.

“The Foo Fighters sound like the Foo Figthers because it’s Me, Taylor, Nate, Chris and Pat.  If it were anyone else, it would sound different.  I feel bad about the bad things, I feel good about the good things.  I wouldn’t change a thing,” Grohl says in Back & Forth.

The Foo Fighters documentary is a testament to a band that made sure to have the right chemistry, despite who got burned in the process.  When it’s in the name of music, it has to be a perfect calibration of musicians or the sound just isn’t there.  It’s also a testimony that no matter how down and out you might be, there are, “times like these where you learn to live again.”

This documentary was truly inspiring and definitely one to put down in the music history books.


more in Screen Review     |     posted Apr 14th, 2011 at 2:43pm     

Comments: 2

curtistwright wrote:

Thanks for your opinions, Tuna_Helper_Sucks. While we @ SEE appreciate your comments and viewpoint, we also appreciate criticism that is not defamatory.

on Apr 14th, 2011 at 11:59pm Report Abuse

Enrique wrote:

This "review" couldn't get more sycophantic if it were written by the head of the Foo Fighters' record company. Even Dave Grohl himself likely couldn't have been so positive. I especially love this part:

"Not so much, if you knew the meaning was that of World War fighter planes."

Where the author disagrees with Grohl, but only to remind him how awesome he is, and that nothing he ever does could ever be bad, ever ever. Bush league stuff. Totally bush league.

on Apr 18th, 2011 at 1:33pm Report Abuse

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