Dave Grohl really wants you to know he is also a filmmaker

(Image courtesy of HBO)

It is no secret that Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl is a paragon of versatility. Arriving onto the scene as the drummer for Scream only to become a household name when he joined a little band you may have heard of called Nirvana, Grohl parlayed that success into multiple avenues over a span of two decades, eventually coalescing into hybrid documentary series/concept album "Sonic Highways."


After Nirvana's legendary untimely demise, Grohl formed Foo Fighters, which went on to become one of the world's most popular rock bands in its own right. Rather than take on the role of drummer again, Grohl served as lead vocalist and guitarist, proving himself to be one of rock's most prominent multi-talented musicians.

As if it was not enough that Grohl can do almost everything in a music studio better than most musicians can do anything, he then made the leap to documentary filmmaking with the 2013 film "Sound City," which earned a perfect 100 percent "Fresh" stamp of approval from reviews aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes. Detailing the history of the eponymous studio where Nirvana recorded the groundbreaking "Nevermind," "Sound City" is intensely detailed but limited in overall scope. It leaves the feeling that Grohl has a lot more to say on the history of rock and roll.

Naturally, it did not take very much time for a follow-up to happen. Grohl has reconciled the development and release of Foo Fighters's new album with the production of a comprehensive documentary series to form "Sonic Highways," a multimedia experience now airing Friday nights on HBO leading to the release of the album itself on Nov. 10.

Marketed and subsequently framed as a necessary companion piece to the album, the connection exists solely to lure Foo Fighters fans into going along for a ride across the vast geography of rock history. By debuting a new track from the album in each segment and giving brief explanation to how the album and rock music as a whole were influenced by a certain place and time, the connection is not without merit but is still mostly superficial.

That said, one need not even be a particularly big fan of Foo Fighters to be thoroughly engrossed by "Sonic Highways," as it is Grohl's filmmaking ability and fascination with the genre as a whole that shines through. Unlike traditional talking head documentaries, the Chicago portion of "Sonic Highways" is not unlike "Sound City" in the whelming amounts of stylistic flourish Grohl projects onto the presentation. The result is a interesting yet dizzying bombardment of rock history facts that leaves viewers learning a lot in a relatively short amount of time.

However, it would appear that the scope may be too big for the medium, or at least how it is being used in the show's first hour. While there is plenty of academic trivia, there is very little insight into what it all means or why it matters. It is obvious that Grohl knows the answers to any and all questions that might arise from watching "Sonic Highways," but there does not seem to be much urgency to answer them before they are even asked.

In that regard, it is hard not to feel like an opportunity to make one of the definitive rock documentaries has been squandered a little bit. Not to disqualify what Grohl seems to be achieving here, which is a lot, but it is hard not to get caught up in imagining how the series would be if it were more interested in evangelizing the importance of rock than being a supersized advertisement for an album Foo Fighters fans were probably going to buy anyway.

"Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways" airs Friday nights on HBO at 11:00. The first episode is available anytime on HBO GO. The album of the same name will be released on Nov. 10.

Reach the reporter at zheltzel@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @zachheltzel.

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