33. Foo Fighters – The Pretender

Keep you in the dark, you know they all pretend.

I had heard this song a couple of times without paying it much attention. It was a good song with those Pixies-style LOUD quiet LOUD parts, but it didn’t jump out at me until I saw the video.

I had a difficult time figuring out which Foo Fighters song to put on this list, The Pretender or Everlong. Everlong is a better song and it has an amazing video by Michel Gondry with giant hands and the drummer in a dress, which is hard to beat. But there’s something brooding and intense in the combination of music and images in the video for The Pretender that builds up a a sinister feeling until a money shot of blood. As a cinematic moment, the pairing of the song and video is greater than the individual brilliance of the song and video for Everlong.



First the space they are in is huge – a big arena with a shiny white floor, a black line across the middle and a red wall behind the band. They’re playing in a Mondrian painting. There’s a huge array of fluoro tubes lighting the scene and reflecting in the red wall. Dave Grohl winds tape on his hands like a boxer preparing for a fight. The band starts playing, not at the camera but at the other end of the room. We can’t see who is there, just shadows and a dark opening. Dave Grohl is so wild that his damp hair is over his face.

As the first chorus starts, an armored man walks out of the shadows and up to the white line. He’s riot cop 21 and he’s facing down the band. He lowers his visor and prepares his riot stick. Only one riot cop? As the second chorus begins, number 21 yells and an long line of cops march out of the shadows to take their place alongside him. There’s a stare down; it’s The Foos vs the riot cops. As the music increases in volume, the cops all put their visors down and lean forward ready to sprint at the band, whacking their shields with their nightsticks as a haka to taunt them. They sprint at the band in slow motion as the music pauses and we wait for the inevitable clash. It is like the pause in the music in Alexander Nevsky when the armies charge on the ice.

The cops are just about get to the band when Grohl hits the chord to start the chorus. The red wall explodes in a torrent of blood which overtakes the band and hammers down the riot cops. The wall explodes! We’d been looking at it all clip and it was just a wall, but now it is firing blood at the cops. It is the band’s power, their credibility, their mastery of rock ‘n’ roll which is crushing the cops. The song ends with an exhausted Dave Grohl on his hands and knees in the blood, and they switch off the red filter to show the blood to be water.


Next: 32. The Stranglers – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

Previous: 34. Rick James – Super Freak


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