Release Date: Sep 15, 2017
Record label: RCA
Dave Grohl seems all too aware of the Foo Fighters’ limitations. He’s tried different things over the years to apply some degree of diversity on the Foos’ basic motoric hard rock sound, with varying degrees of success. For 2005’s In Your Honor, the band recorded two discs of material, with the second being acoustic-based. Grohl approached 2011’s Wasting Light with the intent of giving it a raw, old-school sound by recording it in his garage with analogue equipment.
Finally, Dave Grohl’s inevitable transition into a flannel shirt-wearing Freddie Mercury-with-tats is complete. Kicking off the ninth Foo Fighters album with one minute and 22 seconds of Queen-worthy bombast, the glistening sonic flare that is ‘T-Shirt’ sets the tone for a blistering, high-gloss ‘Concrete and Gold’, a record that features some of the band’s most vital and impressive tracks in years. Following up 2014’s ‘Sonic Highways’ – a conceptual indulgence which saw the group travelling to some of the US’s most legendary music studios – this is a return to a more simple way of doing things.
At the end of the sonic highway, David Eric Grohl found that the rock’n’roll spirit he’s spent the whole decade chasing was an era, not a place. After the Foo Fighters recorded 2011’s Wasting Light in his garage to invoke the ghost of his spotty punk teens, they set out across America making 2014’s Sonic Highways in some of the most storied and historic studios in the country, hoping rock magic was to be found clogging up Nashville microphones or ingrained into the antique mixing desk dials of Chicago, Seattle or NYC. Rock’n’roll wasn’t a tourist destination, it was the records that made you.
IN CONCEPTION AND EXECUTION, Concrete And Gold stands as Foo Fighters’ most beguiling record to date. There is much to admire here as they grind rock and pop’s tectonic plates together in a deliberate gamble to widen their sound. Throughout, the Foos operate with a charming exploratory giddiness, be it the audacious layered harmonies on T-Shirt or the surprise piano coda on Sunday Rain.
The past two decades have proven that the Foo Fighters are the fun-loving, flag-waving ambassadors of mainstream arena rock. This decade hasn’t been as kind. There’s been a few radio hits, yet going back to the garage for 2011’s Wasted Light, recording at heralded studios across the country for the HBO series Sonic Highways and an impromptu session in Austin for 2015’s St.
By now, frontman Dave Grohl, drummer Taylor Hawkins, bassist Nate Mendel, guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear and keyboardist Rami Jaffee have perfected their template. Foos albums tend to follow a well-worn pattern, dotted with highlights, but often padded out with frustrating levels of mediocrity. A gutsy throat-shredding lead single .
"I feel an earthquake coming on," Dave Grohl sings on "Dirty Water," a moment of fragile guitar poetry from Foo Fighters' ninth album. Of course, keeping things steady amid chaos has been one of Grohl's signature themes since the Foos were born from the wreckage of Nirvana a couple of forevers ago. Musically and emotionally, Concrete and Gold is their most balanced record yet .
When a band has been around for as long as Foo Fighters, it’s understandable that a feeling of indifference might grow towards each new album release. Certainly, that was the case with their last effort, 2014’s Sonic Highways. A loose concept album – each song recorded in and inspired by a different city across America – their eighth LP was still pretty much Foo Fighters by numbers. Yet despite the reassuring familiarity of their sound, they’ve shown a remarkable knack over the years for producing epic, crowd-pleasing anthems.
You know, it’s not that Dave Grohl doesn’t care about music. That idea would seem preposterous to his zillions of fans. But he wins so often these days that it’s easy to forget what he’s lost: The Colour and the Shape, arguably his best album, came on the heels of his first marriage crumbling in 1997, and Foo Fighters’ 1995 debut was a testament to survival following the suicide of the then-drummer’s frontman/generational icon Kurt Cobain.
Upon first listen, Concrete and Gold— Foo Fighters' ninth studio album— may land with a bit of a shrug, relying on overly familiar hard rock grooves and staying largely in the band's comfort zone. The riffs crunch and Dave Grohl alternates between soft balladeer vocals, a gruff snarl, and occasional scream. Subsequent listens may not wholly break new ground, but once it settles the textures of a solid, workmanlike rock and roll album reveal themselves.
The best Foo Fighters songs always work exactly like Dave Grohl wants them to: Joy-buzzer power-pop hooks, thickly packaged guitars, a couple of throat-shredding screams.
Imagine all the world’s big rock bands adrift on a leaky raft. Supplies are low. Who’s shark bait? It’s a scenario sadly untestable in the field, but few rock fans would conceivably pick Foo Fighters over more divisive arena-fillers – Red Hot Chili Peppers, say, or U2. Born from the ashes of Nirvana, but transformed into a juggernaut thanks to Dave Grohl’s grasp of melodics, the Foos are a reliable group who are hard to hate: power with tunes, good times with gravitas.
Foo Fighters’ decision to work with Greg Kurstin - a producer better known for his work with the likes of Adele, Sia and Lily Allen than twiddling knobs for yer da’s favourites - is probably a direct reaction to 2014’s ‘Sonic Highways’: where once stood lengthy discussions about cities’ musical heritage and hours on plane journeys, is now someone with a metaphorical PhD in the three-minute pop hit. And, in a not entirely dissimilar way to pals Queens of the Stone Age having enlisted Mark Ronson for their latest, if nothing else it’s an interesting experiment for a band often accused of settling into an all-too-familiar rhythm. Opener ’T-Shirt’ is almost a tease.
Nine albums into their career, Foo Fighters are one of the biggest rock bands in the world, and frankly, they’ve become a bit predictable. Of course, there’s no denying the appeal of the early hits (you know the titles) and the charisma of singer Dave Grohl, a genuinely decent chap. Still, they need to push out a bit if they’re to retain interest, and this album may be the one to do it. This time out, Grohl has inserted a ton of Beatles references into his sound, alongside massive chorus dynamics of Queen-sized proportions.
F ew artists make the business of being in a hugely successful rock band seem as breezy and straightforward as Foo Fighters. In their world, there never seems to be much in the way of angst or agonising or artistic differences .
In retrospect, I’m not sure what it was that I saw in Sonic Highways that made me give it near perfect marks; I praised it for operating on ‘greater echelons’ (I don’t know what that means,) said of Dave Grohl that he had ‘remarkably fresh style’ (he did wear a slick Morrissey shirt in the D. C. episode, it’s true,) and authoritatively claimed the album and project to be an, ‘innovative, concise… mid-career opus.
As good as Foo Fighters are at sending themselves up, you do have to wonder how close to the bone some of their very public internal mockery actually cuts. It was March of last year when, plagued by rumours of an unlikely split, they released a YouTube video that shot down the suggestions in playful fashion whilst also poking fun at the idea that Dave Grohl might embark upon an ego-driven solo career. The thing is, as much as basically every other rock star under the sun would queue up to tell you what a thoroughly lovely bloke Grohl is, there was a potentially uncomfortable truth in that video.
They may have taken their name from an old term for UFOs, but the Foo Fighters have always been a down-to-earth bunch. It isn’t so much a matter of personality as it is necessity. Grunge was in an existential state of emergency when Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl started the group in 1994, in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide and his former, legendary band’s resultant demise.
It may seem overly simplistic, but it is possible to split most of the Foo Fighters' songs into two distinct categories; The heartfelt, emotive songwriting of .