Feb 132012

Choose one.

It’s been a few years now, hasn’t it, since Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl added a full-on beard to his Look, and his band’s popularity has only continued to soar. Nevertheless, watching the GRAMMYS last night I remembered an unwritten rule I meant to write down about 10 years ago, while watching another band led by a thickly bearded singer who also wore glasses. I’m going to write it down now, and I urge lead singers the world over to consider this:

A lead singer must ensure that any combination of hair, facial hair, eyeglasses, and makeup does not impede his or her ability to communicate with an audience.

Some singers can communicate through a potentially distracting combination of Facial Expression Barriers (FEBs), but for every Ronnie Van Zandt (scruff beard; long, matted hair; and hat) there are probably a dozen lead singers who keep their audiences at a whisker’s length as they fall into the trap of mixing too many facial accouterments.

For me, Grohl’s beard crosses the line of expressive frontman style. The sweaty mane–beard Look would be cool on Grohl the drummer or Grohl the guest guitarist with another artist, but it gets in the way of his role at the lead vocal mic. “What’s he hiding,” I ask myself, “what might I be missing that may make me better enjoy this song?”

Chris Cornell strikes a proper balance.

For contrast, check out the above classic press kit shot of Soundgarden at their peak. Singer Chris Cornell restricts himself to a tasteful D’Artagnan, leaving lead guitarist Kim Thayil the heavy lifting of carrying off long hair, a beret, a mountain man beard, and sunglasses.  It was not only the music of Led Zeppelin that informed Soundgarden’s best qualities. Clearly they were following the balance set by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page during the band’s most hirsute phase.

It’s bad enough Grohl’s band’s music has no memorable qualities, but I can no longer focus on Grohl as the band’s frontman. All that energy he and his mates put forth is lost in that sweaty mane flopping over his full beard with little more than Dave’s wide nostrils peeking through. Clearly he and his bandmates are doing something right, but trust me: that lead vocal position can’t stand up to all the distractions his hair–beard combo send out. Foo Fighters would be a much more enjoyable band if only Grohl would choose one or the other: the beard or the long, sweaty mane.

The ball’s in your court, brother. You’re welcome.

Help Dave Grohl choose which facial expression barrier needs to go: the beard or the long, sweaty mane?

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  32 Responses to “Dave Grohl: This Mic’s Not Big Enough for Both the Beard and the Long, Sweaty Mane”

  1. misterioso

    haha you watched the Grammys.

  2. In the name of music journalism – and while I was waiting for Downton Abbey to begin.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    Post of the day!

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    That is: Misterioso’s.

  5. tonyola

    I think Mr. Mod’s admiration of Chris Cornell’s style has been skewed by the nipples.

  6. alexmagic

    Beardless Grohl looks too much like Alanis Morrissette, so I think he needs to keep some of the facial hair.

    I think part of the strategy in having the long hair and beard is part of his continued tactic of Pulling A Saddam with Taylor Hawkins as his (lighter haired) decoy. And in the current configuration of the band, Hawkins appears to have is own Poppleganger in the band now, which makes things that much more confusing for any would-be assassins on Courtney Love’s payroll.

    This makes the Foo Fighters covering Prince for a few years and Prince returning the favor (perhaps sarcastically, as some speculated at the time) at the Super Bowl more logical: Grohl learned the multi-Saddam decoy move from the master.

  7. I wish I could change my vote based on your Morrissette point, but I stand behind the need for Grohl to make a decision. No one’s gonna buy a blond Saddam regardless of how Grohl and Taylor the Drummer work it.

  8. misterioso

    Having mocked Mod’s Grammy watching, I have to throw out there that with the luck of the Irish working, I switched away from the hockey game I was watching (Flyers vs. Red Wings, a good game) just in time to catch part of the Salute to the Beach Boys by Bands I’ve Never Heard Of and then The Moment We’d All Been Waiting For, a Real Live Beach Boys Reunion of Several Living Members and Others I Cannot Vouch For. Mind you, there were so many people up on that stage that the more or less Actual Beach Boys could have been holograms for all I know, and can based on the amount of camera time he got and how inaudible he was, did anyone know Al Jardine was going to show up? Oh, the humanity. Back to the hockey game for me.

  9. Misterioso, you mean to say that you just happened to switch from watching an extremely manly sport at the exact right moment to catch the one aspect of the Grammys that might be acceptable rock nerd viewing? I would accuse you of not coming clean with the amount of Grammy action you caught last night but for the fact that you included the name of two hockey teams so I guess your story checks out.

  10. (BTW, I just noticed that this is published post #3500.)

  11. My Grammy review: Holy crap, Foster the People’s version of “Wouldn’t it be Nice” was lame! Were it not for the Wondermints not-so-discreetly helping out with instrumentation and (especially) vocals, it would’ve been a complete, Lana Del Ray-on-SNL-style trainwreck.

  12. I’m now sorry I missed this Beach Boys segment – and I couldn’t even blame it on watching manly men skate around and bash each other into the boards.

    Is “Foster the People” the worst band name ever? I keep thinking of that James Taylor attempt at a bad CSNY song, “Show Thee People,” or whatever it’s called. Ugh!

  13. I didn’t see any of the Grammys. I was too busy watching Lord Grantham make out with the help.

  14. RTH syndrome in effect: I saw the Foo Fighters and immediately thought that the whole band was doing the rhythm beard thing to support Mr Grohl.

    I missed the Beach Boys / Foster the People thing but they were badmouthing it on WXPN (the local NPR outlet). God, I hate Foster’s “Pumped Up Kicks”. All the worst of middlebrow, tasteful indie rock in one dose.

  15. BigSteve

    This pogonophobia is something up with which I will not put. The idea that men with beards are hiding something is silly. Rather, people who shave are hiding their natural facial hair.

  16. Thoughts & questions while watching the Grammys (on dvr, so covered in about 90 minutes):

    1. Why the Foo Fighters and not a 1,000 other bands? Does Grohl outpoint Ringo for luckiest person in rock & roll?

    2. Didn’t know a thing about Bruno Mars before but now know he does a helluva James Brown.

    3. If McCartney’s suit during his My Valentine number was one size larger I’d figure he borrowed it from David Byrne’s closet.

    4. I was hoping that the Beach Boys segment would show me something making it worthwhile to buy tickets for the reunion show coming to the Mohegun Sun casino here in Connecticut but instead I saved $100 bucks.

    5. Is Foster The People a worse names than The Band Perry? I guess so but not by much.

    6. That Nicki Minaj performance can be the illustration in wikipedia for “What Hath MTV Wrought”.

    7. Shame there wasn’t an Iwo Jima there for Macca’s guitar army rave-up before The End.

    8. Man, I like Glen Campbell!

    9. Minus points to Bonnie Raitt for duetting with Alicia Keyes, plus points for her performance.

    10. I sure wish Whitney Houston had waited until today to kick.

    11. Why is it that rappers need gangsta/street cred to make it but once they do they become the least gangsta people around?

  17. trigmogigmo

    Good observations, Al.

    My thought is that the crowdsourced Beach Boys reunion was because they are so lifeless (and in Mike Love’s case, creepy) that they couldn’t really carry it by themselves. I mean, “props” to Brian Wilson for getting it together and performing, but he looks so tentative. But Love looks like he’s mainly concentrating on winking and pointing individually at every young chick in the fake TV mosh pit. Or something. Ew.

    Here’s a made-up theory from ignorance: “The Band Perry” was originally called “Perry” but people thought that was the lead singer’s name, which it may or may not be, and they wanted to be a band, not a backing band.

    My excuse for watching was that they said McCartney was going to play (which he only sort of did, and only at the very end!), and I could let it run in the background while I was wrenching on my car.

    I liked the multiple guitar jam on “The End”, and the roles were clear: Paul’s two guys played the John and George parts; Paul played fitting Paul parts; Joe Walsh played suitable bluesy riffs; The Boss threw in some good noisy licks on the Telecaster; and Grohl was kind of filler at best.

    And, hey, Sir Paul, I have to pince nez you on your own lyric, man! It’s “sleep pretty darling”, not “sleep little darling”.

    It makes me a little sad to hear the lack of strength in Paul’s voice in the upper range during “Golden Slumbers”, understandable though it is at his age.

  18. trigmogigmo

    Wikepedia says they are the three Perry siblings.

  19. Here’s some sweet beard action to show you I’m no pogonophobe:

  20. misterioso

    Whew. Just “good” luck on my part. I didn’t even know about the “reunion” at the Grammys.

  21. misterioso

    Well, I hate to say it–and coming from a Dylan fan this may sound odd–but Paul’s voice has been in freefall for a while now. Unfortunately he hasn’t quite figured out a way to make it work for him when performing.

  22. misterioso

    Al, some good points. Why Foo Fighters? I think because it allows people who think they are too cool to embrace the kind of utterly mainstream rock he is good at to enjoy it while thinking they are in fact sort of edgy, and vice-versa. If you know what I mean.

  23. Is it just me, or do Foo Fighters seem to be the generic all-purpose rock band these days?

  24. They may be becoming the rockin’ Hootie and the Blowfish of our age. They are making me miss Soul Asylum at the height of their popularity.

  25. BigSteve

    I reject the idea that good music has to be edgy. If there has to be an all-purpose rock band for our era, we could do a LOT worse than Foo Fighters. I haven’t really kept up with their records, but when I see them on TV I always like them.

  26. Did someone say that good music had to be “edgy?” I feel Foo Fighters have all the “proper” rock moves down that I can always like enough: driving beats, pretty cool guitar riffs, energy… But to my ears they lack songs – and a singer who communicates much of anything to me. Maybe I’d get more out of their music if I could see Grohl’s face.

  27. Whoops – that mean misterioso brought the word “edgy” into play. Sorry!

  28. In the late 90s — The Goo Goo Dolls seemed to fill the bill.

  29. misterioso

    Yes, but not by way of suggesting that good music has to be edgy. Surely it is clear enough by now that “edgy” is not one of my main criteria in music. It was just my sense of why some people rate Foo Fighters higher than they might some other basically mainstream band–an illusion of edginess or a residue of Nirvana, call it whatever. I tend to agree with BigSteve’s assessment, more or less, just with rather less enthusiasm.

  30. I’m not anti-Foo, but tend to agree that I really can’t think of any songs — other than maybe LearnTo Fly that really do it for me. My comment was more like — hey central casting — get us a rock band — here you go –Foo Fighters.

  31. Seriously, who is left to fill that “current working rock band” slot if not the Foos? Pearl Jam?

    Wasting Light was released with a big promotional push and actually moved a few units. I wish they had done their 1st single, “Rope” instead of the one they did.

  32. I enjoyed the Grammy’s this year. Bruce’s 1st show without Clarence (Garry got moved from Right Field to Third Base in the new E Street lineup), Paul with Joe Walsh was pretty good. Foo Fighters willingly hold the “hard rock” torch for the industry. they say “yes” to all offers to be “the” rock band and reaped the benefits with 5 grammys. (Sorry Mastodon). Beach Boys sounded ok but looked so OLD. I thought Brian was going to pass out. Foster The People is a bad name. Maroon 5 were way out of their comfort zone. I dig Alicia Keys. I like that thousands of people over 40 asked why the DJ was wearing a giant Mickey Mouse head! The Golden Slumbers jam was a good ending. At least Paul didn’t do Let It Be and Get Back for the 10,000 time. Also Taylor Swift was VERY good. Didn’t know the song (it’s a big hit she got the Grammy for it) but the set, the instruments, the production, etc was cool.

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