Arts and Entertainment, Brooklyn Bugle, Existential Stuff, History, Music, Opinion

Dave Grohl is Killing Rock ‘n’ Roll, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll: Prologue to a Manifesto

October 20, 2014

It is time, friends.

We need a true form of musical activism. We need artists willing to risk everything to expose the cultural atrocities and mammon-driven careerist lies spread by the wheezing rock’n’roll machine.

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We, we Americans, need our Crass, our Mekons, our Billy Childish, our Billy Bragg, our Chumbawumba. We need artists that filter every action through a desire to expose lies and create positive cultural models; and we need our musical Duchamp, Tzara, Dali, Arp, artists willing to make art extreme and art gorgeous and art that makes a statement about all the wrong turns music has made because of commerce and so-called common sense. And we need it now, more than ever; and such a movement has more potential to thrive, now more than ever, because of the virus of plurality and ubiquity that is the Interstream.

Jon Langford: Role Model

I am inspired to type this (not yet a manifesto but perhaps a prologue to a manifesto) because I have heard the new track by the Foo Fighters. It is the most vapid, despicable, corrupt and unentertaining piece of crap I have ever heard (with the possible exception of ELP’s “Karn Evil 9”). The new Foo Fighters track sounds like late-period Blue Oyster Cult attempting to write a Tom Petty song but changing their mind midway and settling for any overly-macho and ham-fisted imitation of MTV-era Aerosmith, I swear to you it’s that bad; and if this is what claims to uphold the flag of rock’n’roll these days, let’s fucking kill this animal and start again. Let’s use all our energy and all our connections to find a Steve Ignorant or Jon Langford or punk rock Steve Earle to climb on the cardboard Golgotha sitting on the John Varvatos cash-pile consumerist rock has become and tell this rock’n’roll Herod that his time is over. And let’s find some hacker genius to make sure that every time someone tries to download this rotten piece of Classic MTV fuckery masquerading as punk statement they get “Rowche Rumble” by the Fall instead.

Foo Fighters were harmless enough when they were just churning out reasonable Husker Du imitations, but somehow they got it in their head that they were the God-appointed Czars of rock’n’roll and keepers of the punk rock flame; so now they have to make this really big dramatic music with lots of quiet parts and loud parts and even SWEAR words in it because THEY ARE SO FUCKING PUNK ROCK, though really it all just sounds like a track leftover from BÖC’s Imaginos plus a hefty dose of Hagar-era Van Halen bombast filtered through one of those frightening Billy Steinberg songs Cheap Trick recorded when they were desperate for a hit EXCEPT THE DIRTY WORDS IN THE SONG MAKE US IMPORTANT AND MAKE US REBELS, MAN, BECAUSE WE ARE SO PUNK ROCK.

Billy Childish. Role Model.

Generally, us old people want nothing more than to be back inside, back in the game, which makes us afraid to make enemies; but fuck it, I have lived and breathed through some of the best times this old beast rock’n’roll had to its name, and I owe it to these pleasures, these extremes of energy and emotion, I owe it to every great band I ever saw, to do everything I can to call this piece of sad decay exactly what it is: a sign of the absolute rotten corruption of this genre. And I recognize that all the pieces are in place to use the new-model music industry for POSITIVE CHANGE, and to combat this kind of over-fucked fucked-out old corpse.

Let this fax of the xerox of the shadow of the chalk outline of punk be combated, not with violence but with an alternative, with a new folk that sounds like howls of hillbilly cats and punk green and lean and honest. Let’s remember that the line between crispy Crass fan and crusty Burning Man daze dog is small indeed, and should be smaller; and lets unite to celebrate free music, and instead of condemning the cheapness and ubiquity of the resource, let’s celebrate this reality and utilize that ease of distribution to preach something truly meaningful. Let every song have a message, let every song have the courage to send shivers or be repulsive or even be absolute sugar. More than ever music can be rude or dumb-angel beautiful, and more than ever music can be courageous and make courageous statements and stand for something.

Steve Earle. Role Model.

Listen, if it’s all going to be given away for free now, anyway, let’s just fucking run with that concept: give it away and make it mean something. Make strange and beautiful music about important things (or make your music and your sites doorways for valuable information!) and give it away to the people


Seriously, this country is a total fucking mess yet full of the potential of every genius, lover, and dreamer who lives in it, so make music (or create portals alongside your music) to reach these genius, lovers, and dreamers; spread art and information, information, information, information; combat ignorance; and since you’re giving it away, give away knowledge, too. And take it away from the people who use it to pump even more fart-filled air into this ugly monster, yes, Dave Grohl, I am looking at you, because you are spewing out your ugly sub-Soul Asylum-meets-Desmond Child belch-fuel masquerading, cruelly, as PUNK ROCK… I prefer the flagrant, blatant, numbskull fakes to the vile subtle ones; any Adam Levine, proud of his Douche Fiefdom, is preferable to some half-assed watered down version of REAL.

Paul Krassner. Role Model.

Now…I am sure Dave Grohl is a perfectly nice guy (and, in fact, people I trust confirm this). But we have all put up with his punk rocker-as-Ken Berry-on-1970s-variety-show persona long enough, his goofy and precious and almost ludicrously self-important self-anointed role as the good will ambassador of rock’n’roll. With this horrific release, NOT a well-meaning song but a carefully constructed attempt to make a “classic rock” song with “a dose of attitude,” he pushes it over the edge, and he needs to be stopped. His kind of vapidity in the guise of punk rock envoy needs to be combated by a new-model army of people willing to use music to instruct and enforce change. We need millennial Tom Hayden or Jerry Rubin or Paul Krassner to cover his constant public coronation with planeloads of dogshit, and to offer real alternatives in unique ways. Rock’n’roll doesn’t need a goofy ol’ Merv Griffin guest like Dave Grohl to make punk safe for all those rock’n’roll hall of fame voters, fuck that shit, fuck that shit, shit on that fuck; rock’n’roll was fucking hillbilly pillheads and London speed dealers and princes and princesses in the Kingdom of Outsiders and people courageous enough to give up a living because they wouldn’t appear on lying network TV shows, and it was about Wynonie Fucking Harris and the fucking Treniers (who I saw playing for tips in the bars of low-end Vegas casinos when they were almost 80 years old and playing as if they had just invented rock’n’roll that afternoon), and it was about the sloppy-ass Kinks in the 1970s and shrieking Sonics in the 1960s and shuddering Suicide daring the audience to hate them and Eddie Cochran slurring and slapping and Gene Vincent and Lemmy and Vince Taylor holding on to the rock crazy train and refusing to let go; it’s not about Dave Fucking Grohl’s Pat Sajak in a Mohawk act, it’s about hearing something that makes you shiver and shout, it’s not about hearing something calculated to be the perfect air freshener to brighten up your shit-stained classic radio doormat.

Phil Ochs. Role Model.

Listen to The Fall Listen to Huey Piano Smith Listen to Hawkwind Listen to Hanoi Rocks Listen to the Stooges Listen to the Mekons Listen to Pete Seeger listen to Pink Flag by Wire listen to Goatwhore Listen to Bo Diddley better yet.


Make it yourself, drawing from the bruised and tic-tock ticking and thundering hollers at the root of the beast Dave Grohl ruined, listen to Ledbelly and listen to Joe Ely and listen to Billy Joe Shaver listen to Paul Sanchez listen to Fred Neil listen to Sister Rosetta listen to Phil Ochs Phil Ochs Phil Ochs Phil Ochs and Sun Ra and all these people who played with love and anger and because they had to. And

Dave Fucking Grohl read about Victor Jara who DIED for the right to make music that made a difference.

(Dave Grohl dies for the right to guest host Chelsea Lately and play drums at the CMA Awards.)

Victor Jara. The Anti-Grohl. And Role Model.

And it’s time to change, no period here, but an ELLIPSES, an ellipses that YOU have to fill in, that powerful people have to fill in by deciding to take the freedom and promise of FREE music and using it for POSITIVE CHANGE. Listen, I’m going to write a lot more about this in the future, because it’s really important. Start again. Make it means something. Rock’n’roll is dead, long live rock’n’roll.

More on this subject here.

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  • Bruce

    WTF is the point of this self-masturbatory piece of slag other than to try to make everyone think this self-absorbed asshole is the most important rock journalist who ever lived? The hypocrisy just flows through his keyboard. For one thing, he accuses Grohl of being the self-anointed God of rock, all while coming off like he can tell everyone else what to listen to. I’m guessing he lives in some converted loft in an artist colony in NYC because he wants to say he hangs out with artists. Meanwhile, he’s probably never written or performed a single song on his own. God I hate people like this prick. At least Grohl has actually CREATED music. All this dickhead has done is critique it. The more I read, the more convinced I became that he must have been one of the people who told Lars and James that it would be a FUCKING FAAAAAANTAAAAAAASTIC idea to record an album with Lou Reed. Also, he drops the names of a bunch of bands that would NEVER have been played on MTV, but the FIRST credit in his “About Me” section is that he was a MTV/VH1 journalist. I’ve got news for this asshole: It’s not Dave Grohl that killed music, it’s his former employer. End Rant.

  • please remove

    will you please remove my past. Dave G is just affiliated with southern lord . I thought he was the founder and that is Greg Anderson. can you please remove my post . sorry my bad.

  • Aviv

    Look, I get it man. I get the frustration.
    Personally, I still love the FF and Grohl but I’ve learned to take both their music and Grohl’s public persona and statements with a grain of salt.
    after about album 3 or 4 the music has become a formula (Yet, in my opinion, was still awesomely energetic and catchy) and Grohl’s over romanticizing wasn’t very relatable to me, even though, between some of the cheesyness, you could definitely find some actual good input that come from genuine, interesting life experience.
    FF never claimed to be a punk band with some generation-leading message. That was never their purpose and they’re definitely not taking any room from any artist who might actually want to take on that role.

    Waiting for a rebellious, message-carrying musician to come and save us all sounds a little archaic to me (unfortunately) in the sense that with the way the music industry is right now, you’re not going to get someone who’ll swoop everyone off their feet. Doesn’t seem like it anyway. (Maybe Kendrick Lamar could transform into something like that? I highly doubt it though) and also, you can’t just sit and wait for that. Do it yourself if you want that to happen, nobody’s gonna do it for you.

    I’m sure Grohl could use his power and influence for sending more significant messages than what he’s doing right now (Although, it’s not all terrible at all.. His HBO show actually gives you or a younger audience a nice little history lesson) but he’s doing something different.
    Not defending him, but rather trying to point out that the attention should probably steer in a different, more productive direction.

  • Jack Warsaw

    I am very surprised no one has mentioned Greg Sage in this conversation. He is the foundation of all this, yet is totally overlooked. The Wipers and Poison Idea, best ever.

  • Gutter

    Dave Grohl was cool enough to get Tony Joe White on the Letterman show.

    That makes up for many other faux pas of his.

  • http://deleted DC Dan

    Does this rock hard enough for you, Mr. Sommer? It’s from their last album Wasting Light.


    And is this “punk rock” enough for you? Oh yeah, Grohl earns his political bona fides here too, perhaps?


    Or finally, maybe this, “stumping” at a John Kerry rally in 2004?


  • Adam

    This article is perplexing.
    On one hand I agree that music needs a serious kick in the ass and on the other I have to say sorry you hate Dave Grohl so much in a world full of Keshas and Taylor swifts.
    I watched the show and have to say Dave has a love for music he does not say he is the poster boy for all things punk he says he is a musician plain and simple.
    He is doing a show that takes us back to the roots of music and tells a story then he takes that experience and writes a song. Ummmm it may not be an anthem for rebellion or even a great song , but in the end he is doing what he does for a living and making a good one at that.
    The thing that bugs me about this article is it truly sounds like the douce bags I knew in school who were always telling people the music they listened to wasnt cool enough or was to commercial and that they all needed to listen to some obscure band that had too much message and not enough talent.
    Smile relax take a pill whatever.
    There is so much music in the world if its not your cup of tea move on.
    I agree Dave is a bit too much sometimes but his heart is in the right place and he definitely came from good stock.
    Music needs to step up and yes it needs a serious enema, I have to say so does journalism these days and DJ’s.
    Move on smile I am sure somebody will come along and breath life back into rock n roll funny enough just like NIRVANA did back on the 90s when hair metal and boy bands were taking control.
    SO smile put on Dragnet or Room to live and move on.

  • Ryan

    Dave isn’t killing anything, if anything his new show is introducing hundreds of thousands of people to his influences and music that was never expose to the masses without his power to make it so. Maybe a small percentage of those watching will explore punk bands like Big Black or other unknown punk or underground bands and put a small amount of money into their pockets that they so deserve.

  • C.M.

    “We, we Americans, need our Crass, our Mekons, our Billy Childish, our Billy Bragg, our Chumbawumba. We need artists that filter every action through a desire to expose lies and create positive cultural models.”

    America had an outfit equivalent to Crass, Mekons, and Bragg, as well as a whole lot more, all rolled into one. They were called The Minutemen, were around in the early to mid 80s before a car crash ended them prematurely. They made some of the most intense, great, inventive, heartfelt and intelligent music ever to be filed under the larger “rock” umbrella, yet they were not the only American band to do so during that period (the Hüskers, to name only one).

    • awesomedupuppy

      Double Nickels on the Dime, STILL worth a listen today!!!

  • mike

    If you’ve got a better way to rock then just do it and stop all this dancing about architecture. No one is stopping you from contributing actual music to the world instead of a bunch of subjective angry thoughts.

  • Steve Albini’s Colon

    “I signed Hootie because they were amazing songwriters and a class fucking act.”


  • http://philajjarapu.bandcamp.com Phil Ajjarapu

    I think that there actually is a problem and the author is trying to address it and offer a solution. You could insert a number of artists into the slot reserved here for Grohl but that’s neither here nor there.

    Problem one: art vs commerce – we could go on about that for years

    Problem two: art as a disposable commodity – people want art to digest but they don’t have the time out aren’t willing to invest the time to develop a relationship with the art they consume. It seems to me that the art that is most popular is the art that is most easily digestible.

    Problem three: when someone criticizes the art you have chosen to invest your time into having a relationship with, you stop hearing an argument and you start hhearinga personal attack.

    So while the article makes points I can agree with, and has generated discussion that brings up other salient points, we aren’t closer to a solution or choose of action.

    As a musician, do I give my work away? I’d never afford to make another thing. Not only that, I could give it away, but that doesn’t mean anyone will take it.

    As it is, the future is bleak for me.

    The most interesting point made by the author is that i think regardless of genre, he’s looking for music that knows what it is. The sugariest of pop, etc. He’s looking for art that knows what it is.

    If he were to pick on pop country instead, I wonder if the people who commented in this thread would have reacted favorably instead.

    Really, as far as I’m concerned, he’s making an argument for purity. It’s like food, music has become a little bit like that Chinese buffet that serves bad sushi, fried chicken, and spaghetti.

    I’d like to see more albums. I’d like those albums to have aplace in my life, whether by season, time of day, emotion, etc. I do want variety, I just don’t want it all in the same album, or the same song.

  • http://philajjarapu.bandcamp.com Phil Ajjarapu

    Mental note, stop typing on my phone. That out should have been an or. Couple other typos, my apologies.

  • Sommer time blues

    Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post Q&A with Grohl this week:

    Q: Among other things, “Sonic Highways” proves that you’re interested in being a lot more than a guy in a rock band. Do you see yourself as a sort of global ambassador for rock-and-roll at this point?

    A: Uh, no. [Laughs.] That would be pretentious and egotistical and a terrible way to see myself. Everything that I do, I do within this relatively small organization that is the Foo Fighters family. We’re on our own label. And we make records in our studio. And sometimes we make our own videos. We come up with the ideas for all of our projects on our own. We have aspirations and things we want to accomplish, but it’s simple: I love music. I want to share music with people. And I have the resources to do something like the “Sonic Highways” project. So to me, it’s just a labor of love.


    OK, Mr. Sommer, you don’t like his band; heck, I don’t particularly like them either. But I fail to see how he is “killing” rock n roll. If anything, it seems he’s using his influence, money, fame, and the fact that a host of legendary rockers like playing/collaborating with him (see Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Lemmy, John Fogerty, Bob Mould, etc.) to do some cool stuff outside of Foo Fighters. If this makes him the self-anointed goodwill ambassador of rock, well, it’s still a hell of a lot cooler use of one’s musical street cred than, say, Iggy Pop doing a Chrysler commercial with the aforementioned John Varvatos. Whatever you think of his music, anyone who can watch the “Sound City” documentary and not see that Grohl genuinely loves music is beyond jaded.

    But my biggest question is this: You actually saw Foo Fighters break out all over MTV in 1995 or so with the ultra-poppy single “Big Me,” and its accompanying, goofy video spoofing Mentos commercials, and thought to yourself, “These guys are really trying to be punk”?

    Grohl is a passionate fan with music biz experience who has the means to put himself out there and do interesting documentaries and, yes, commit the apparently unforgiveable crime of playing drums at the CMA Awards. You are a passionate fan with music biz experience who has the means to royally piss people off with your ill-targeted snobbery via this column. Honestly, which one is worse?

    • SinDelle Morte

      Ha!! Well-said. At least Dave cares about appearing pretentious and egotistical. Some – like the writer of this article – apparently do not.

  • Ritchie Vanian

    omg tim sommer is still alive? noise the show + 30 years = cranky old elitist

  • Rude Trevor Vargas

    While I did laugh while reading this, with that new Taylor Swift gentrification theme out, aren’t there bigger targets?

    Maybe Naked Raygun will get a few more record sales out of this.

    • Jones()

      I think the difference is that even the people who can stand to listen to Taylor Swift would never point to her as some kind of rebellious genius. No, Dave Grohl is the perfect target here. I actually like Foo Fighters — for the same reasons I like Milwaukee’s Best Ice: it evens me out, makes me feel reassured, gets my foot tapping and doesn’t make me think too much. And that is one good thing music can do. But another good thing music can do is challenge me, make me think. And for that, I wouldn’t go to Dave Grohl. If there really are people out there who think anything Dave Grohl has done since 1992 is even the least bit subversive or challenging, then that person should at least check out some of the other artists Sommers is talking about here. Imagine a generation of kids growing up with Foo Fighters as their paragon of rock’n’roll rebellion. Yawn… I’m gonna need another one of those Ice Beasts right here!

  • Dominic

    Funny, I thought Brooklyn was killing Rock n Roll.

  • Joeyp

    Tim — you say Dave Grohl should spend time organizing people to vote. Who was it that played almost four-hour show at the Rock the Vote concert during the last DNC? Oh, wait…that would be the Foo Fighters. C’mon. Get your shit straight.

  • Chris

    You were a member of The Swans? This clarifies everything! Boy, you guys led a revolution and inspired people…NOT!

  • Kurt Bloch

    I really like Karn Evil 9 by ELP – it’s totally killer, if you haven’t heard it, I suggest you give it a spin

    • Simon

      You say that like its a new thing.

      • Kurt Bloch

        Oh no – but a lot of people may never have heard the album “Brain Salad Surgery” by Emerson Lake & Palmer, def not new but an amazing work from ~ 1973. If you’ve never heard it, it might change your life! Or, you might totally hate it and then at least you’ll know!

  • anthony anonymous

    come to detroit. plenty of rock and roll here.


  • Catherine Gilmour

    Today’s music no longer has a place for a modern Hunter S. Thompson or a drunken Lester Bangs. Meanwhile, the best artists today are shittier than the shittiest music of yesterday and today’s rock critics are no more deeper than a Tiger Beat review of a Donny Osmond record.

  • Charlie

    Tim Sommer was a VJ at VH1, speaking of killing rock n roll… Noise, indeed.

  • Matt Chandler

    How many founding members of Swans were there? About 30?

    You signed Hootie and Dave Grohl is killing rock? Go jump in the Gowanus. Glad you got your name out there with your overblown, sensationalist horseshit writing. Mission accomplished.

  • http://AmericanRockSchool.com Dave

    Mainstream music always becomes contrived just as well meaning politicians become corrupt. Foo Fighters are a damn sight better than the ebonic mumbling and clichéd commercialized crap that is popular.
    As far as the noted punk pioneers, I can’t say that I’m familiar with them because
    I was never a punk rock fan. Sure, the energy is great, the passion, the don’t give a shit; all good. The musicianship? Not so much.
    It seems that once a level of production and technical skill enters, you end up with a different style, ala, Foo Fighters.