It’s hard to go straight into a review of “Saint Cecilia” without first talking about the story behind it.
This year has been full of heartache, disappointment and downright bad luck for the Foos, and it very dramatically and devastatingly came to a head with the cancellation of the last shows of their lengthy Sonic Highways tour, as a result of the tragic events in Paris on November 13th.
I write this review with tears in my eyes and a quivering bottom lip, as I can relate to Dave Grohl’s words, written in an open letter to coincide with the release of this surprise EP.
In the letter, he talks about the struggles of unending schedules, touring with a broken leg, trying to remain humble and human inside a tour bus. Alongside this, he discusses the emotion of music; how it brings people together, helps lift spirits, and how playing shows made all of the bullshit and effort worth it. He lets us into his down to earth spirit; constantly reminding himself that his life is not a dream, by inviting friends to photograph and film, and “always record” during the recording of the album last year, and this EP.
The letter and the EP had always been scheduled for release at this time, and as the letter signifies, it’s a sound off from the Foo Fighters. They will be taking a break, and they don’t know for how long. As with anyone who puts themselves through hard work, whatever it might be, the time comes when you need to step back and take time to heal your body and mind. If you have the opportunity to delegate the amount of time you need to get to where you want to be, you should take it with both hands. Most of us don’t get that chance, and are left to simply cope with our lot. But I digress from the topic in hand. Only you can decide when you are ready to take another step in life; whether it be going back to work, moving house, getting back to the dating world, facing a fear etc. Only the Foo Fighters can decide when they have recuperated enough, if that ever happens.
The press have honed in on the timing of the release, and the poignancy of it. The terrorist attacks in Paris came just three days before the Foo Fighters were due to play there. That, coupled with the fact that the most deadly attack occurred during an Eagles of Death Metal gig, who happen to be close friends with Grohl and the Foos guys, brought everything to home. There was no way the band could finish the tour they had spent almost two years on. It’s reported that the band lost $10 million in total, considering Grohl’s leg fracture and the final shows being cancelled. While they are one of the biggest and highest earning rock bands in the world, this isn’t a number anyone can sniff at.
Grohl never preaches, or specifies how he felt about specific situations in his letter, and this is the best way to leave it all open to each of our interpretations. He says, “Now, there is a new, hopeful intention that, even in the smallest way, perhaps these songs can bring a little light into this sometimes dark world. To remind us that music is life, and that hope and healing go hand in hand with song. That much can never be taken away.” Just these words as they are resonate so strongly with me at the moment. I find myself at a loss of how best to dedicate my life to the things I love and believe in, on a day to day basis. I love my friends and family, and my band, but I also have a full time job, and a secondary job working with young people. I am pained by so many wrongs: bigotry in all forms, terrorism, the class system, people who choose to be ignorant, petty arguments, being told to keep my chin up, plinky ukulele music used in advertisements, 12 year olds drinking giant cans of energy drinks. The list goes on longer than I care to say, and at the moment I feel like I’m not doing enough, and this makes me stressed, angry and depressed. I want to take the time to enjoy Star Wars Battlefront – the best Star Wars game made – Series 11 of Ghost Adventures, and most importantly, laughing with my husband.
The only thing that truly takes me away, and allows me to escape, is music.
This EP is The Foo Fighters’ 20 year career in 5 songs. The opener immediately makes me think of my life six years ago. My Thursday evenings were spent with a group of people who made me laugh and were into all the things myself and my best friend were into. We would sing karaoke, play pool and smoke roll up cigarettes. I lost contact with most of those people as the years went on, such is the movement of life, but something happened which I am only just coming to terms with.
I was at my mother’s two weeks ago, visiting her and my brother. My brother had been working in Gran Canaria, Spain, as a holiday rep – I think this is a notably European thing, but look it up – since March, so I hadn’t seen him for months. We had a great afternoon, catching up and chatting about goodness knows what. When my step-father came home from work, he mentioned a tragic car accident which had happened on a road near my mother’s. I grew up in the same town, and my husband grew up in a village about 12 miles along it. The crash had happened about halfway between my childhood town, and his, so we all knew the place well. Apparently, the two people in the car had been killed when it crashed into a tree and caught fire. Needless to say, we were all stunned and saddened. After all, it’s a rural part of a small part of England, this stuff doesn’t happen often.
It wasn’t until four days later when my best friend phoned and told me that someone from the Thursday group of years ago was one of the people in the car. Not only that, but they had been a friend of my brother’s playing drums in his band, and other associated bands after he had left to work in hospitality. The other person in the car was another friend and workmate of my brother and associated friends. Sometimes things come round in such a terrible heartbreaking circle, and you are left wondering if there was ever some little thing you could have done to stop it. Usually there never is, and in the last few days I have come to the conclusion that if you do whatever you can, the change will come within you, and you can learn to be proud of what you do.
Someone in my area, whom I do not know personally, went to Calais, to volunteer their time to the camp there, setting up shelter, sorting and handing out donations, and even performing music there. He posted a lengthy Facebook post explaining what it’s really like, and suggesting ways in which the everyman can help in any way. You can even donate a small amount of money, it all goes towards keeping these people warm, fed and safe; three essential things which humans need to be able to live. Donating money means you don’t have to take any time out of the day to day, you don’t have to sort through things you might have in the house which are no longer needed, you don’t need to find a way to get your relief package across the Channel/Atlantic etc. You only need to spend a few minutes on the laptop to make a difference to someone’s life. Think about that. Someone’s life.
The same day, I bought The Big Issue for the first time in years, and it helped my mood a little. If all I can do is spend a little extra on a portion of chips or a coffee for the fella who sits on the bridge drawing geometric art pieces, donate a little to the camps in Calais, go along to the memorial service of a man I knew for only a short time to show support for my brother and other friends we have mutually known along the way, sign a petition against the privatisation of the National Health Service, then I have made a fucking difference.
All my emotional release aside, this EP is quintessentially Foo Fighters. “Saint Cecilia” bangs into life with beautiful honesty, and Grohl’s vocals soar above everything, making you understand the story behind it all. You feel as though you are in the room with them all, part of the group of friends he describes in his open letter. The second track, “Sean”, is old Foos. It’s reminiscent of “Monkey Wrench”, catchy and jumpy. “Saviour Breath” is a pop punk number, emphasis on the punk, with a fast-paced beat and fun chorus, which you might not expect from a song titled as it is. “Iron Rooster” is full of memories, a fairly low, soft number which eases you down into thoughts of the people you have lost contact with, whether you are friends on Facebook or not. It particularly reminds me of the pub quizzes with the old friend who I wish I had got in contact with before his early departure from this world. I cooked him enchiladas and sang Heart at his request. Finally, “The Neverending Sigh” draws everything to a close. It’s late at night, I have to get up in the morning to go to work and carry on with the day to day, as most of us do. I will lie awake, unable to find an answer to the question about whether this could even be called a review, or rather a ranty, personal blog post. Then I’ll wonder all day at work about how I could change it, and how I could still carry on with my integrity intact. The truth of it is, I don’t care at the moment. I’m in a bad place, I’m suffering, and I want to get all of this off my chest because I’m a big believer in that it will help in my recovery.
“Saint Cecilia” reminds me of all of this, and feels so personal to me, that it is the reason for the way I have worded this. I felt like it wasn’t appropriate to review in the standard way, given the circumstances around it, the band and my personal reaction to it. The EP is free, and worth the download. If you have ever liked the Foo Fighters, there will be a part of this that appeals to you.
In the meantime, whether you have ever been a fan or not, if you want to know more about how to help people in the campsites at Calais, go to calaid.co.uk.
Thank you for reading this, if you got to the end, and thank the gods for people who are a part of my personal battle, including those who will never realise it. I’m looking at you, Dave Grohl.
- Saint Cecilia
- Savior Breath
- Iron Rooster
- The Neverending Sigh