This album makes me feel happy as soon as I hear those first few near-whispers of my beloved David Eric Grohl’s voice. Aaaaaahhhhhh…
I feel happy and relaxed and excited and inspired and in love and beautiful whenever I hear Foo Fighters music, no matter what song it is. I need to have a chip implanted in my brain that streams Foo so I am always in a good mood. There are not a lot of bands that do that to me. I love music of all kinds, and I have a strong reaction to so many artists and particular songs. But they do not all make me feel the way Foo makes me feel.
The Colour and the Shape is probably their best album. It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite, of course, because they are all brilliant. I love Wasting Light because it sounds so natural and real. I love There is Nothing Left to Lose because that is the first Foo I bought and was obsessed with. I love the debut album because it’s all Dave, all day and all night. When I listened to The Colour and the Shape earlier today as I drove to and from work, what really struck me was how talented Dave is, how he has such an overwhelming need to create, and how perfect every fucking song on this record is. It was released in 1997, a year that saw popular music go in many different directions: Missy Elliott and Sheryl Crow and Chumbawumba and The Cranberries and 98 Degrees were all topping the charts. Some musicians want to sell out stadiums and be superstars. Some just want to make great music with their friends. Dave happens to be in the second category, but he has been fortunate enough to have experienced liberal amounts of the first. What is so great about him and all the music he has been a part of is that he never tried to fit in with any of the trends. Nirvana was called grunge, though that was just a made-up term. Nirvana was a rock and roll band. Foo Fighters are rock and roll. The guys in each band grew up listening to The Beatles, Motorhead, Queen, Black Flag, and The Sex Pistols. The music they produced has roots that stretch far and wide. But it’s all rock and roll to me.
The other thing that I thought about when I slipped this album into my car’s CD player was how emotionally connected it is to the time in which I first listened to it. It was a drama-filled period for me, and Foo was one thing that kept me from completely going off the deep end. It was then that I decided to become a Dave Grohl scholar, and it has been a lovely journey of amazing discoveries and hours of passionate analysis of both the music and my poor brain. The first few hundred times I listened to The Colour and the Shape I was still drama-free. My best friend had moved away, and I pretty much stopped going out and being a sloppy drunk mess. I still wanted to be a sloppy drunk mess, but my BFF was my designated driver, so now I had to stay home or go out and not drink, and I never saw the point of going out and not getting drunk as hell. I don’t remember a lot about how I felt about not being Queen of Queens in the gay bars for that time, because I really did devote myself to all things Grohl. I wrote letters (yes, letters, since it was 1999 and 2000 and I had yet to discover email—and besides, I’m a writer, and letters are so much more writerly than emails!) to my BFF and always included at the top of the page under the date the soundtrack for the letter, which was always Foo.
I was 26 when I first listened to The Colour and the Shape. Now I am about to turn 40. I am so much happier at this age than I was back then. But I do have such great memories of listening to this music, as miserable as I was in my late twenties. Nirvana’s music is catchy but depressing, and I always associate it with the bad shit I went through. I was going through the same bad shit as my Foo obsession grew, but it never stuck to the music. Their music has always made me feel hopeful. That is incredible.
I’m hanging on here until I’m gone
I’m right where I belong
Just hanging on
I am a storyteller by nature. This is one of those albums that tells a story. All the songs seem connected, but not by some really obvious theme. Everything flows together, yet each song stands out as a singular achievement in musical and lyrical mastery. A relationship from beginning to end, with all its ups and downs, is something we can all understand. Dave does not try to speak for others, and he has never really spoken much about his personal life as source material for his songwriting. I like that he doesn’t. It’s such a personal thing, and sometimes revealing too much takes away from the art itself. Adele’s songs are clearly about guys she kicked to the curb, and she acknowledges that. But she doesn’t need to tell everyone all her business. That ‘s part of her appeal.
Of course, songs like “My Hero” make everyone think of Kurt Cobain. How many times has Dave been asked if he wrote it about Kurt? I’m sure he got tired of that really quickly. But it’s natural for people to assume that it is about Kurt. I admire him for not talking about how the song came to be. Does it matter? Why can’t we just enjoy the beauty of it?
Don’t the best of them bleed it out
While the rest of them peter out
Truth or consequence, say it aloud
Use that evidence, race it around
I particularly enjoy “My Poor Brain,” since I can point to many situations in my life where I fucked my own shit up. I love that this song uses the famous Foo quiet/loud technique, and it is perfect for what this song talks about. Things are cool and mellow, and then my stupid brain ruins everything! I want to detonate! Over the years I have repeated the same bullshit so many times, and for some reason I was always willing to dive in head first. I was stuck between the handshake and the fuck. But I couldn’t get myself out of it. I relished it.
Sometimes I wish that I could change
I can’t save you from my poor brain
Oh my God, and then “Wind Up” comes up from outta nowhere and kicks you in the balls right away! Fuck me, that’s good shit. It’s angry and sarcastic and features some orgasm-inducing rock and roll screams from our sexy friend Dave.
My only promise is that I’ll never tell
Keep you at a distance from the things that I felt
I’ll bite the bullet, take the beating until
I take it all back anyway
What was I supposed to say?
I have always had a habit of not telling the men I have loved how I feel. I was afraid to reveal that to them, though I was never afraid to reveal anything else. Emotions are much more challenging and scary than sex. I settled for what I could get from these guys instead of telling them what I needed, and I know now that it’s because these guys were not capable of giving me what I needed but I didn’t wanted to see that. I always chased after the ones I could never truly have. Fucking is one thing, but love is quite another.
“Up in Arms” is so beautiful and simple. It’s a poem, and I love Dave’s voice and the melody and everything about it. We’re back together again because I cannot get over you. It’s my fault I broke up with you. I was an asshole. I need you. Sigh. If only I could have heard that from one of those douchebags I loved when I was younger and dumber.
“See You” is another piece of perfection. Dave has one of the best rock and roll screams in history, but he is just as good at these lovely little acoustic-y songs with sweet lyrics.
These notes are marked return to sender
I’ll save this letter for myself
I wish you only knew
How good it is to see you
These steps I take don’t get me anywhere
I’m getting further from myself
One thing is always true
How good it is to see you
Wow. I just love it. Dave is the master!
And then we get back to the screaming with “Enough Space.” This song doesn’t make much sense, but it makes good use of the quiet/loud stuff again, and Dave is Primal screaming his way ever more deeply into my heart!
Not everyone knows the songs on this album, but anyone who watched MTV or listened to the radio in the late 90s knows “Everlong.” It is one of those classic powerhouse rock songs that should be on any list of the greatest of all time. This is another one that reads like a poem, and I am just so amazed at Dave’s talent as a lyricist.
The only thing I’ll ever ask of you
You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when
So I can breathe you in
Hold you now
I have considered getting “Breathe out so I can breathe you in” tattooed on me. Those words are such a gorgeous way to express your love for someone. This whole song is just filled with brilliance and beauty and pure emotion, and it’s one of those pieces of art that will stand the test of time and never sound dated or cheesy. It’s just that fucking good.
“New Way Home” is the only song that could end this album. I feel like it’s sort of about coming to terms with things, acknowledging the fuck-ups and the bullshit, but being closer to knowing who you are because of all that. The super quiet part in the middle of the song is such a perfect way to demonstrate that, because he’s saying that he will never reveal his secrets because you’ll probably be bored by them, but at the same time he is not scared anymore. He starts getting a little bit louder as he sings “I felt like this on my way home/I’m not scared/I passed the boats and the kingdome/I’m not scared!” He is screaming it at the top of his lungs by the end, and you know he’s just fucking done with the fear and is ready to bust out and get on with his life.
I love this leash that holds me when I try to run away
I feel that way right now. Some of these songs remind me lyrically of stuff on Wasting Light, specifically “Walk.” Dave’s a cool guy, and he’s always creating something and doing well at it. But he has struggles and insecurities like the rest of us. He’s had lots of shit happen to him that we’ll never know about. He is a happy dude, but he feels pain and anger and disappointment like everybody. I love the way he tells those stories without making them really about him. He is accessible. That’s what art should be.
When I thought about writing this blog I had to consider whether I could emotionally work with it tonight. I’m not going through any drama right now, since all I do is go to work and then stay home every night. But I was afraid of these songs bringing up the ugly stuff from my past. I didn’t want to deal with it. I have already written about a lot of that when discussing other albums. But when I listened to The Colour and the Shape earlier today what I felt right away was peace. No sadness, no anger, no disappointment. I knew that I could handle this because I am in a far better place than I was when I was 26. Everything in my life is not exactly as I would like it, but I know who I am, what I need, and what I will and will not put up with. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t give a fuck about most shit that used to bother me. I have let a lot of things go. I have found a new way home.
Dave Grohl will always be one of my main inspirations as an artist and a human being. He has so much that he still wants to do. He’s never burdened by a feeling of having done it all. He’s very accomplished, but I don’t think he looks at himself that way. There’s so much more he will do, so many other projects to conquer and master. I admire his passion for creative expression. He is never bored. He doesn’t stop. Even when he feels like he can’t do something, he does it. I need to be more like that. I let myself become damaged by low self-esteem, and now that I have turned my life around I want to accomplish all the things I felt too fucking lame to even try before. As Dave said about naming the last Foo album Wasting Light, he doesn’t want to waste any opportunities he has. If there is something cool he can do, he goes after it. I want to be that cool.
I’m still trying to keep this time from running out
Head down, always moving on and on and on