America has a weird relationship with dynasties—ranging from sports teams to rich families with reality television shows—that almost always follows the same pattern: we get excited about them, then we get bored by them, then we get frustrated by them, then we come to downright loathe them only to inevitably shift gears and celebrate when they end by looking back fondly while marveling at everything they managed to achieve.
Why do we build people up just to knock them down? Well, I’ve seen The Dark Knight several times and I still haven’t figured out the answer. What I do know is we do it all the time, and I feel like we don’t really pay enough attention to a cycle as vicious as it is nonsensical.
More often than not, dynasties either owe their downfall to the inescapable wrath of Father Time or seeing the pillars that play the biggest role in holding them up abandoning the ship. Once the obligatory elegies are out of the way when they do end, it usually doesn’t take long for people to start speculating who will ascend to the throne that’s been vacated, and once that question is answered, it’s time to rinse, wash, and repeat.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I don’t know; maybe it’s because we’re masochists and gluttons with an undying appetite for endless punishment, but that’s just one of the many possible explanations.
More often than not, attempting to predict who will fill the void is a fairly fruitless exercise. Sure, there are certain signs you can look for when scouting for a potential dynasty, but for the most part, the evolution is a bit of a crapshoot. Luck and timing are arguably the biggest elements when it comes to long-term success and easily the least controllable, and while talent, determination, and the ability to change with the times obviously play an essential role, identifying a dynasty in its infancy is damn near impossible.
Last Friday, the Foo Fighters released their tenth album in the form of Medicine At Midnight, which probably flew under the radar of the people who were more focused on the man responsible for ending the Patriots dynasty as he geared up for yet another Super Bowl. However, you shouldn’t sleep on the band that recently celebrated its 25th year together since emerging from the ashes of Nirvana, and over that span, the group has relentlessly chugged along on its way to becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world (as well as one of the most reliable ones).
While Medicine At Midnight does see the band changing things up a bit musically—embracing some dance and pop vibes—it is still everything you’d expect from a Foo Fighters album by now; the layers upon layers of guitars, thundering drums, and soaring choruses tailor-made to be sung by arenas full of fans.
Much like the team Tom Brady helped transformed into one of the most formidable franchises in the history of sports, the Foo Fighters dynasty has managed to last longer than anyone would’ve ever really expected, featuring ebbs and flows of success and relevancy but ultimately defined by an almost unparalleled consistency and the ability to defy the inevitable passage of time. Much like you basically knew what you were going to get from New England during the first two decades of the new millennium, the Foo Fighters have rarely disappointed during their time together and repeatedly flipped the bird to the critics and naysayers who’ve routinely predicted a demise that doesn’t seem like it’s coming in the foreseeable future.
Again, it’s fairly pointless to speculate, but it seems like the Chiefs are far and away the favorites to pick up the torch Brady chucked into Boston Harbor before making his way to Tampa Bay. However, if you take a look at the current rock ‘n roll landscape, it’s hard to point to a musical equivalent of the Patrick Mahomes-led squad who show the signs of serving as a worthy successor whenever the Foo Fighters’ run eventually comes to an end.
Foo Fighters released their first (and self-titled) album in 1995 but their journey to rock royalty didn’t really kick off until they followed it up with The Colour and the Shape a couple of years later. Propelled by “Everlong,” the record was the equivalent of the band taking home its first and second title, as the breakout hit would eventually help them sell over 10 million copies (it remains their best-selling record to this day).
The Colour and the Shape made it clear that Dave Grohl & Co. meant business. It wasn’t Nirvana’s drummer trying to ride the coattails of Kurt Cobain in a desperate search for a second act; it was an insanely talented musician who had all of the makings of a star.
However, it obviously didn’t happen overnight, as the Foos didn’t exactly take the express gondola to the top of the mountain. Rock’s upper echelon was pretty packed as the 1990s came to an end, with bands like Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the prime of their careers and other acts like Blink-182, Limp Bizkit, and Korn giving the genre their own unique treatment on the outskirts. The Foo Fighters more than managed to hold their own, but they still had plenty of work to do once the 2000s rolled around.
At that point, bands like Creed, Puddle of Mudd, Staind, and Nickleback replaced Limp Bizkit and Korn as temporary holders of the Biggest Rock Band in the Land crown, a list of names that (unlike the Foo Fighters) has not stood the test of time. The band was still holding its own but there wasn’t a ton of separation between them and the field, all of whom were being slowly overshadowed as the genre began to lose its solid grip on pop culture.
It did receive a sort of stay of execution after being infused with the burst of energy that came when The Strokes, The Hives, and countless other bands beginning with “The” appeared on the scene in addition to the arrival of Audioslave and some monster albums from RHCP, Queens of the Stone Age, and Weezer. Again, the Foo Fighters were still trucking along and were definitely a force at the time; they just weren’t the only force out there.
Based on what I’ve said so far, I can understand why some people might question if the Foo Fighters are actually the dynasty I’m painting them as, and I’d direct them to take a closer look at the unreal run the Patriots had to explain myself. It might seem like New England played in the Super Bowl every single year, but there was actually a decent chunk of time between some of their championship wins, a period best remembered for a near-perfect season, an improbable catch, and the presence of a cold-blooded murderer in their locker room.
Like the Foo Fighters, the team was always in the thick of it when it came to vying for the Lombardi Trophy, but the ultimate recognition of success still managed to elude them. However, it would be foolish to write off those years as failures. Sure, they might have had more successful campaigns, but that doesn’t discount the impressive heights they were still able to rise to.
By the time the 2000s gave way to the 2010s, the Foo Fighters were still keeping busy by recording albums and touring relentlessly, but by that point, rock music seemed like it was getting left behind. Many of the bands who were supposed to be The Next Big Thing the previous decade had come and gone; The Strokes took some time off, Nickleback and Staind fought a losing battle to remain relevant, Jack White broke up the White Stripes and embarked on a wildly inconsistent solo career, and Kings of Leon shed fans with each new album after emerging as a powerhouse (which most experts would agree is not the most ideal strategy.)
When the next decade officially began, rock music was in a weird place and, much like baseball, it seemed like another Great American Pastime was slowly fading away. The genre had been supplanted by hip-hop, R&B, and EDM, and this changing of the guard was reflected in music festival lineups, where you were hard-pressed to find some good, old-fashioned rockers in a headlining spot. Sure, there were exceptions, but the writing was on the wall—graffiti the Foo Fighters were more than happy to ignore.
In 2011, the band released Wasting Light, one of their strongest albums, and in the years the followed, they seemed to become more and more relevant and part of our lives.
Part of this could be attributed to Grohl’s rise as something of a pop culture Waldo. He was everywhere; showing up on Sesame Street, playing drums for Paul McCartney, and directing the documentary Sound City (a nostalgia-soaked look back at the famous Hollywood recording studio).
In 2014, he embarked on an even more ambitious project: the HBO limited series Sonic Highways. Each episode featured Grohl and the band in a different city lush with musical history where they’d get a feel for the place and then record a song based on their travels (which helped produce the underrated EP of the same name.)
As the 2010s reached the halfway point, the Foo Fighters had simply outlasted the competition. All of the bands from the early years of the century were gone and the newer bands of the 2010s had also failed to stick around, either breaking up or taking time off. Popular “rock” bands were groups like Twenty-One Pilots and Imagine Dragons, neither of which were traditional rock bands by any means. It seemed like what was left of rock music had been overrun by hyphens, with acts eschewing its founding tenets and introducing elements from other genres. Of course, this wasn’t anything new, but it seemed as if the students had become the masters and the masters were left to play the afternoon slots for dads while their kids geared up for Post Malone’s headlining set.
Then we had the Foo Fighters, who were still playing and remaining faithful to the old-school ethos that had formed and shaped them. They had now become synonymous with “rock ‘n roll” and few things drove this point home more than when Grohl fell during a show in 2015 and then finished the damn thing with a broken leg.
The band released Concrete and Gold in 2017, and while the release didn’t stop the world in its tracks, it was a refreshingly alive album from a band that had been together for over twenty years. Foo Fighters still had youthful energy to them, and even though Youths were gravitating to the likes of Greta Van Fleet, Grohl and his trusty sidekicks still held court when it mattered. They were the elder statesmen now, but not ones content to merely wax poetic about the old days. There was still something left for them to prove and they acted accordingly.
Over the years, plenty of bands have challenged the Foo Fighters for the title of Best Rock Band In The Land, and on more than one occasion, they’ve managed to temporarily wrestle it away from them. However, every dynasty experiences those setbacks, and in order to earn that title, you have to continue to press on and conquer the adversity. The Foo Fighters have done exactly that.
There will come a time when this all ends. It’s inevitable. We saw it happen with the Patriots, and at some point, the same fate will befall the Foo Fighters. Even if they do just keep doing their thing until the end of time like bands from the 1970s who still insist on recording and performing, at some point, there will be a transfer of power and the title will be someone else’s to hold and defend—but until that happens, the Foo Fighters are the biggest rock band the genre has to offer and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.