I needed a definitive source to look to for critical analysis on the Foo Fighters’ brand new EP Hail Satin, where the now legendary rock and roll band dedicate themselves fully to reproducing the glitziest and most glamourous of The Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever era disco hits. I needed someone who was the ideal audience, someone who was a Foo Fighters fan, was alive during the era of The Bee Gees major run, and had a soft spot for Barry Gibb and his searing yelp – so I turned to my dad.
Over a beer or three, we discussed a few necessary questions: did he like it? What’s the point of this record? Is it just a five-song joke? Is it even a funny one? Did his other friends also like it? Well, the man who’s seen the Foos at least three times live, will readily admit to liking some of Barry Gibb’s solo work, and doesn’t have a burning passionate hatred for disco music, had a hearty laugh – and gave his approval.
Grohl must have been taking falsetto lessons from friend – and Tenacious D collaborator – Jack Black because his high screechy quack has more than a little bit of cartoonish ridiculousness when he goes for those ball-twisting peaks. The good news is that it completely fits his take on punk-funk: could you imagine anyone doing a full Bee Gee’s cover EP, focusing solely on their major disco hits, completely stone-faced and seriously? It would be awful.
The songs themselves are remarkably faithful to the original source material. A few more distorted guitars, a few more aggressive drum fills, a nod-nod-wink-wink attitude that permeates throughout, but the essential elements that the original songs required, like wah-wah guitar, synthetic strings, and twinkling keyboards, are holdovers from the original recordings. Drummer Taylor Hawkins, now firmly established as the Kim Deal/Keith Richards/Ringo Starr of the Foo Fighters, gets his own lead vocal on Andy Gibb’s ‘Shadow Dancing’ and makes the most of his moment in the disco ball spotlight. It’s crazy to consider that Pat Smear was an actual disco-killing gutter punk in Los Angeles at the same time ‘Tragedy’ ruled the charts, and yet here he is, strumming out that song’s escalating chord progression, happy as can be.
It’s also worth noting that Hail Satin is more than a Bee Gees cover EP. It’s a full length album, with its second half containing live versions of a few of their Medicine at Midnight tracks. These versions sound almost identical to their studio versions and don’t really hold much interest compared to the bizarre novelty of the album’s first half. I already knew what standard Foo Fighters songs sounded like, but I had no idea what the Dee Gees were going to sound like, and once the disco stomp dropped away, my interest in the album quickly faded.
So who is the album for? Who’s the target audience? Was this necessary? I suppose these are questions that a writer with a more explicitly critical point of view would query about, but that’s not how I went into Hail Satin. I wanted exactly one thing from this album: to make me smile one of those big goofy smiles that came when I first heard Grohl’s take on Barry Gibb’s testicle-squeezing high notes. Dear reader: I was not disappointed.
Hail Satin is Grohl and company in full-on fun mode, taking their already loose and majorly dad-centric band persona to its logical – and hilarious – conclusion. Nobody on earth will have any reason to hear Hail Satin twice, but the one and only listen is well worth it.