By Gillian G. Gaar
There are a few Dave Grohl biographies out there, but This Is A Call is the only one to have cooperation from Grohl and his colleagues.
Grohl will always be best known for his work in Nirvana, and his subsequent success with Foo Fighters. But he was a veteran of Washington, D.C.’s hardcore scene before he scaled those heights, and author Paul Brannigan does a pretty good job in chronicling Grohl’s often overlooked formative years. He also takes care to not let the Nirvana story dominate the book, recognizing that Grohl’s career with Foo Fighters has been longer, if not as groundbreaking (avoiding the mistake some biographers have made with Paul McCartney, for example, devoting most of the book to the Beatle years, and the post-Beatle period summed up in a single chapter).
Brannigan stresses that while he had Grohl’s cooperation, the book isn’t an authorized biography, meaning Grohl had no control over what ended up in the book. But there can still be a desire to keep your subject happy, and Brannigan doesn’t press Grohl on subjects that make him uncomfortable (like the dissolution of his first marriage). A good researcher would then find out the information on his own, but Brannigan is happy to accept the party line. He can also be a bit starry-eyed, dutifully pointing out less flattering reviews of Grohl’s work, but making sure to add his own positive spin. For all his complaints about Martyn Goodacre’s famous portrait of Kurt Cobain staring moodily into the camera playing into a “romanticized narrative” of the Cobain story, Brannigan is little different as a writer himself.
But part of the problem is Grohl, who, for all his surface openness, is careful not to reveal too much about himself, and clams up whenever a subject gets too personal. As a result, Brannigan limits himself to writing about what he sees; so you learn about everything that Grohl has done, but never learn what makes the man tick. Who is Dave Grohl? That’s a book that remains to be written.
But as a summation of Grohl’s career to date, This Is A Call is packed with information; the extensive discography is another plus. Dave Grohl fans will welcome this comprehensive look at Grohl’s life and work.