70: Foo Fighters – “Everlong” (1997)
The second single from the band’s second and best record, 1997’s The Colour and the Shape, “Everlong” is Dave Grohl’s greatest achievement as a songwriter. In the ensuing two decades, he’s tried (and failed) to reach this apogee again.
Part of the track’s power comes from the guitars and drums that breathlessly sprint throughout the song. Yet, it holds up even when transferred to a sparse acoustic guitar/vocal arrangement because of that superb melody and Grohl’s impassioned vocals.
And his lyrics match the song’s intensity. “Everlong” deals with finding a new love to replace (or fill) the heartache of losing a former one, and an everlasting yearning for that new love to remain pristine ad infinitum. As the song dashes towards a red sun horizon, Grohl pairs an impossible wish (“If everything could ever feel this real forever” with a simple, yet important, request (“The only thing I’ll ever ask of you/ You’ve gotta promise not to stop when I say when”).
“Everlong,” then, is an ellipsis. Even its opening line suggests a continuum (“Hello, I’ve waited here for you/ Everlong”). By its end, Grohl’s wish is not granted; instead, it hovers over his head and doesn’t stop him from being unabashedly optimistic as the song fades into the distance. Perhaps that’s why it’s been the band’s closer for most of their career. It’s not only because it’s the band’s pinnacle, but also because it’s an attempt to end on a hopeful note – a kind of “maybe next time, guys” to inspire all the heartbroken people out there to find a new, better, perfect love. That might be why “Everlong”’s fever dream video is a perfect fit: for love’s cynics, only in a dream could such a reality be true. – Steve Lampiris
69: Sonic Youth – The Diamond Sea (1995)
Sonic Youth were three albums into their major label recording contract when they geared up to record Washing Machine. The previous album, the subdued and scattershot Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, saw the band on an upward trajectory thanks to the alterna-hit “Bull in the Heather”; new fans were acquired along with bigger expectations. After touring that record, the various members took some time off for various side projects including a baby for guitarist/vocalist Thurston Moore and bassist/vocalist Kim Gordon.
When it was time to reconvene for the new record, the band consciously decided to ignore the pressures of the record company and fans when writing songs for the album. Instead of recording in New York, the band decided to decamp to the relatively isolated city of Memphis. According to Gordon, “It was so great to be out of NY recording somewhere else. Things were relaxed there.” The band also tried a new strategy of playing new songs live before attempting them in the studio. As a result, the band went on a few short tours around this time including a slot opening for R.E.M. on their Monster tour. When R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry suffered an aneurysm, the tour was put on hold so he could recover. When the tour reconvened on May 15th, 1995, Sonic Youth debuted a new song called “The Diamond Sea.”
“The Diamond Sea” perfectly captures the position the band found themselves in at this point in their career. With one foot firmly planted in the new pop of the Alternative Nation and the other in their noise roots, Sonic Youth split the difference. The song opens with one of the most gorgeous melodies the band ever wrote, buoyed by lyrics that are angsty but sweet. The bulk of the next 15 minutes, however, is devoted to droning guitars and repetitive, formless riffs punctuated by an outro of gnarly guitar noise and backwards drums. If fans had any expectation that Sonic Youth was going to move towards the mainstream, this was the band’s definitive response. – Eric Mellor