Kristin Recommends “A320” by Foo Fighters

So I fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole recently while fact-checking another piece on Foo Fighters or maybe just Googling .gifs of Dave Grohl, as one does, and came across a quote from a review of an early Foo Fighters album in which the reviewer declared that Grohl was super punk rock and “allergic to strings.”[1] Immediately I was like…okay what planet are you on because 1. Nirvana definitely wasn’t allergic to the cello and 2. “A320” from the Godzilla soundtrack is rock violin heaven.

“A320” was written and recorded early in 1998, specifically for Godzilla, which surprised me when I went to the Internet for some facts. My personal fan theory has always been that this song laid some of the lyrical groundwork for “Learn to Fly” from 1999’s There Is Nothing Left To Lose. Both songs make multiple references to aviophobia — the fear of flying — and “A320” even has the line “I dream about the day I learn to fly.” So, you know, this fan theory still holds water. Regardless, I’m glad the movie people asked Foo Fighters to make this song because it’s an absolute gem.

“A320” is a very much guided both by violin (provided by Petra Haden of that dog. and The Rentals, and who has accompanied The Decemberists, Green Day, Everclear, and again Foo Fighters on In Your Honor) and a strong bass line. The vibe is cinematic and eerie — it’s this strange, desperate deep breath of a song that is both incredibly anxious and incredibly narcotic. The tempo feels relaxed, the vocals are reserved, the sense of peaceful resignation has a strong presence, but then there’s this epic release as the song builds into a Zepplin-esque crescendo and finishes with Taylor Hawkins’ drums[2] and Grohl’s guitar working seamlessly alongside the strings he’s purportedly allergic to. The last three-ish minutes of the song are entirely instrumental. And perfect.

I remember writing about “A320” when I was in high school. And I remember that my seventeen-year-old interpretation of the song was bleak — a sort of alt-rock “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” My thirty-five-year-old-self sees something else: a reflective pause. A pursuit of hope. A simple beauty hidden in the fear. And this is the beauty that I live with, that I look for in songs like this, that I find in the familiar voice of Dave Grohl which, after all these years, is kind of like an old friend.

[1] I would cite the source here but, you know, Wikipedia rabbit holes. Easy to fall down, difficult to trace back.

[2] I actually long thought that these were Grohl drums, but this recording actually marks the first time Hawkins played with Foo Fighters in a studio session.

(Song recommendation by E. Kristin Anderson)

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