(illustration by Ike Turner)
“We Americans, need our Crass, our Mekons, our Billy Childish, our Billy Bragg, our Chumbawumba,” so declares former “Noise The Show” host/musician/VH1 contributor/A&R fella Tim Sommer, who takes to the Brooklyn Bugle to call the new Foo Fighters song, “the most vapid, despicable, corrupt and unentertaining piece of crap I have ever heard” (“let’s use all our energy and all our connections to find a Steve Ignorant or Jon Langford or punk rock Steve Earle to climb on the cardboard Golgotha sitting on the John Varvatos cash-pile consumerist rock has become and tell this rock’n’roll Herod that his time is over.”) Lest you think these are the ramblings of some random crank as opposed to, y’know, a genuine crusader, Sommer writes, ” I owe it to every great band I ever saw, to do everything I can to call this piece of sad decay exactly what it is: a sign of the absolute rotten corruption of this genre.”
Just to be perfectly clear, it’s not Pat Smear or Taylor Hawkins that Sommer singles out for special ridicule, instead lambasting American’s Sweetheart, Dave Grohl ;
Yes, Dave Grohl, I am looking at you, because you are spewing out your ugly sub-Soul Asylum-meets-Desmond Child belch-fuel masquerading, cruelly, as PUNK ROCK… I prefer the flagrant, blatant, numbskull fakes to the vile subtle ones; any Adam Levine, proud of his Douche Fiefdom, is preferable to some half-assed watered down version of REAL.
Sommer certainly knows of what he speaks — during a previous life signing bands to major labels, he inked Levine’s pre-Maroon 5 combo, Kara’s Flowers, to an MCA deal (a factoid strangely missing from the Bugle op/ed), so he’s certainly played an active role in fashioning the Douche Fiefdom. And while Tim is hardly the first or last person to take exception to the current overload of all things Dave Grohl, it is somewhat telling what certain individuals do when they’re in a position of power and influence. Sommer sneers at Grohl hobnobbing with Chelsea Handler, but the former Dain Bramage guitarist has also used his notoriety to (for instance) shine a bright light on artists including but not limited to Ian MacKaye and Tim Kerr. I mean no disrespect to the wonderful Chubawumba back catalog when I say the rest of the world would be very, very lucky to have an Ian MacKaye or Tim Kerr.
In contrast, what did Mr. Sommer do when blessed with an opportunity to use the vast resources of a Time-Warner property? While Grohl opted for the longest EPK in music biz history (albeit one featuring interesting content that isn’t entirely about self-promotion), Sommer signed HOOTIE & THE FUCKING BLOWFISH. And he’s pretty darn pleased with his role in their ascent, too, writing in the same Brooklyn Bugle (“20 Years Ago Today I Started A Spectacular Voyage With Hootie & The Blowfish”), “we achieved the impossible, but it never seemed impossible to us. We never doubted we were doing the right thing; we simply followed the instincts in our practical and artistic hearts.”
(above : the artistically pure Darius Rucker)
“I have been asked many times how someone (uh, me) whose past musical history was so entwined with extreme forms of the artful and/or noisy could have ended up working with something so intrinsically linked with the mainstream,” because in case you’ve not been keeping track, Sommer’s musical history also includes playing in 2015 Rock & Roll Hall Fame inductees Even Worse, and a celebrated stint in NYC’s mind-blowingly pretentious Hugo Largo, a group whose old records currently crowd bargain bins not populated by the recordings of AmRep hopefuls Surgery.
(*-he’s also boasted of being a founding member of Swans, despite not having recorded or played any shows with the group. So this is right up there with my founding The Ramones and inventing Facebook).
I bring Surgery up not because I think being less of a footnote in history to that band is a special sort of insult, far from it. Rather, Sommer cites the fellow NYC quartet with no prompting in his Hootie reminiscence, claiming the Blowfish scaled the loftiest of commercial heights despite being a far lower commercial priority for Atlantic Records than the “emminently second division ‘grunge'” offerings of Surgery.
So there you have it — not only is Surgery’s Sean McDonnell (a tireless supporter of exactly the type of bands that never made the radar of Sommer and pals) no longer here to defend himself, but his band sold SIXTEEN MILLION, NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE THOUSAND, NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE fewer records than those terrific dudes in Hootie & The Blowfish.
Classy stuff, Tim. Y’know, I’ve seen it suggested elsewhere more than once that Dave Grohl — once dubbed a minor talent by that excellent arbiter of taste, Courtney Love — has gone awfully far in show business because of an uncanny knack for surrounding himself with iconic players and the general presumption by public & media alike that he’s an OK guy.
He’s certainly surrounded himself with a lot of talented people (which is probably preferable to surrounding yourself with schmucks). But there’s much worse things than being an OK guy. You could instead be someone nursing a bizarre 20 year grudge against an alleged grunge hegemony that made it terribly difficult for cutting edge artists like Hootie and Maroon 5 to make their important social statements.