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Book Review: "This Is A Call: The Life And Times Of Dave Grohl"

Tshego Letsoalo |
November 30, 2011 | 1:12 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Brannigan's biography fails to get personal enough with Grohl (Da Capo Press).
Brannigan's biography fails to get personal enough with Grohl (Da Capo Press).
The beauty of Paul Brannigan’s writing is that he is absolutely a music journalist. In the first biography of Foo Fighters' frontman Dave Grohl, "This is the Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl," he manages to paint a picture of the musical atmosphere that tracks Grohl’s beginnings in punk, through his place in grunge history with Nirvana and up to the Foo’s latest album, "Wasted Light." The book is filled with vivid details of the different worlds while following Grohl’s growing influence on them.

In fact, one of the shortcomings of the book could be the very fact that Branningan has an extensive history of music writing which sometimes generalizes the book and separates it from Grohl himself into a general and perhaps too wide a lens for us to get a better feeling of who the man behind the music actually is. There are many great sources that help paint the picture but it is still a little faint. Brannigan throws color into moments and sets musical scenes that you can actually hear, but there doesn’t seem to be enough of a relationship between the two men for the author to apply that same detail to the artist. The problems lie in all the parts that his relationship didn’t cover.

The book certainly picks up momentum along the way as the writing warms up as Grohl’s career becomes bigger and easier to focus on. Brannigan knows exactly where to put in a quote and when to use his own knowledge and criticism to push the story forward. His writing has the rhythms and attitudes of the music he describes with punk descriptions like “a glorious yowl of dissatisfaction and self-loathing powered anthems, powered by rusty Stooges-meets-The Sonics guitar slashes and flat-out fucked drum pattern which threatens to collapse to the kerb at any given moment. “

"This is a Call" is a book worth reading for its scope as a series of snapshots of a legendary musical journey. As a reader who appreciates Dave Grohl’s contribution to music and art in general, the book will leave you wanting but definitely not completely unsatisfied.


Reach Reporter Tshego Letsoalo here.


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