REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways 7 – Seattle – “Subterranean”

A HUGE thank you to Uncle Meat, who found the original writeup for this episode of Sonic Highways in his email.  Now the series is posted complete.  Thank you!!

FOO FIGHTERS – Sonic Highways – 7 Seattle – “Subterranean”

Seattle. The home of Nirvana and the birthplace of the very first Foo Fighters demos. It’s a place Dave is intimately familiar with.

Low black clouds, rain and long isolated winters really informed a lot of the gloom Seattle was known for. Dave didn’t know anything about the city before he moved there. “It’s really cold,” a young Dave says on an old home movie. Today, it is a place for both bright and dark memories. It’s become more commercialized, too.

Robert Lang studio is a weird, stone building that a killer drum sound. No walls are parallel and all surfaces are uneven. Robert Lang would trade studio time to help pay excavating costs, and he’s still not done building it. It has rooms deep underground. He almost got buried alive a couple times. A neighbor’s wall collapsed. It was also the last place Nirvana recorded. Since Nirvana, Death Cab for Cutie, Dave Matthews Band, and the Presidents of the United States of America recorded there for the vibe. Foo Fighters returned a few times.

Seattle didn’t have much going for it in the 1970’s except for Heart. Even Heart weren’t really associated with Seattle, because they were always out touring. A new wave/punk scene started bubbling under, as it tends to. But rock bands didn’t tend to stop in Seattle; it was too far out of the way. The scene had to create itself, because that was the only way for live music to exist there. Sub-pop records put out records by the Melvins, Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and more. There was no thought of commercial success.

The bands were sloppier than what was on MTV, and the scene was typified by small sweaty shows with loads of audience interaction. Nirvana were actually latecomers and didn’t even have a name with they started recording. They weren’t expected to go anywhere, but they quickly found their footing. Meanwhile, bassist Nate Mendel was playing with Sunny Day Real Estate, who later became 1/2 of the first Foo Fighters lineup. Dave Grohl recorded about 40 songs towards the end of Nirvana, by himself, which were not meant for public consumption. The songs range from hilarious crap to future Foo Fighters hits. They weren’t meant for Nirvana either, since Kurt already wrote songs so naturally.

Nirvana exploded. So did Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. Seattle became the place to be, and grunge became the fashion. It became a commercial business. When Kurt died, Dave had to discover his love of music. As for Seattle, new people and new scenes soon took the place of the old, though the old still persists and inspires.

“Subterranean” was recorded in that studio deep underground. Hawkins played the drums, and Dave the cymbals, in order to get better separation. Dave makes a great “lead cymbalist”. Regardless of the setting, the band make recording look like a shitload of fun. Ben Gibbard from Death Cab joins them on guitar for this Beatles-vibed ballad. There’s also some Floyd in the grooves. It’s good to get a slow song at the stage of the album, and it fits the gloomy mood of Seattle. You might even read some Layne Stayley influences into the lyrics about being “deep in the dirt”.

Episode 4.5/5 stars

Song 4/5 stars


Sonic Highways 1 – Chicago “Something From Nothing”


Sonic Highways 2 – Washington – “The Feast and the Famine”


Sonic Highways 3 – Nashville “Congregation”


Sonic Highways 4 – Austin – “What Did I Do?/God as my Witness”


Sonic Highways 5 – Los Angeles – “Outside”


Sonic Highways 6 – New Orleans – “In the Clear”


Sonic Highways – 7 Seattle – “Subterranean”


Sonic Highways 8 – New York – “I am a River”




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