Book review: Dave Grohl, The Storyteller

3.5/5 ⭐️

Book cover
Book cover – Dave Grohl, The Storyteller
I’ll confess upfront, I’m a big Dave Grohl fan. Musically, this is mostly from his Foo Fighters work forward. I didn’t listen much to Nirvana and, when Nevermind made them a household name overnight a little over 30 years ago, my tastes leaned pretty far the other way to prog rock and fusion stuff. Over the years, my tastes have broadened quite a bit and, with the exception of a lot of country, death metal and the most saccharine of pop, I listen to a little bit of everything now. I find the Foos blend of crunchy guitar, driving rhythm and killer hooks to be very appealing.

It’s not just his Foo Fighters stuff I like either. His work with Queens of the Stone Age isn’t half bad, his recent Kurstin x Grohl Hanukkah Sessions (featuring his daughter Violet with some killer vocals of her own) is nice and the Dee Gees Bee Gees covers are absolutely sick. Plus, what’s not to like about Grohl, himself? He comes off as about the most down-to-earth guy you could ever meet. Self-deprecating to a fault, funny, family-focused and man, can the guy put on a rock show. As such, I really wanted to REALLY like his recent (first?) book, The Storyteller.

Truth be told, I didn’t not like it, but I also didn’t love it. Part autobiography and part story collection, it’s a very entertaining book in places, but also very uneven. It started strong, with the first half or more dedicated to his childhood in Virginia, his mostly absent father, where his love of music came from, quitting high school to join his first serious band, through to joining Nirvana, Cobain’s untimely death and the resulting formation of the Foo Fighters. There was plenty of great struggling musician stories I related to from my days as a rock drummer doing sewer tours of some of the great dives in BC and Alberta.

Once the book gets into the Foos’ years, the chronological history largely gives way to a more random feel, substituting a cohesive narrative for a collection of cool stories. It’s not that I didn’t get a kick out of some of them. I mean who wouldn’t find a dinner party and marching New Orleans jazz band with AC/DC, or Joan Jett reading bedtime stories to their daughter, entertaining? Not sure how many of us can relate to an Auckland-LA-Perth 48 hour round trip to attend a father-daughter dance while on tour, with food poisoning on the back half, but still pretty entertaining.

Grohl’s at his best here when he talks about family and what music means to him. His abiding love for his mother and daughters really shines through, and the small bit about partial reconciliation just prior to his father’s death are some of the best parts of the book. The random rock stories are entertaining, but I think I’d have liked it better if there’d been more of a plot line through the last half of the book. It still could have included the best stories without losing its cohesion.

Perhaps the one thing that was most problematic was the writing itself. There was a real charm in it, reading as if Grohl was talking directly to the reader (complete with tons of F and MF bombs you’d expect), but the sheer number of adjectives he crammed into almost every sentence made it feel more forced. It took what could have been wonderfully conversational and turned it into something … less. Not everything is the best, greatest, darkest or most awesomest thing, simply because that’s what you’re currently talking about.

Dave’s not a novelist, he’s a rock musician and an entertainer. I’m not sure how much editing the book was subject to, but more autobiography and fewer adjectives would have turned a decent effort into a really excellent read. Nonetheless, as in interviews and concert, Grohl’s energy, love of music and family and groundedness is on full display, and that’s what counts the most, even if the effort could have used some editorial help.