Foo Fighters - Concrete & Gold

by James Gerard Rating:7 Release Date:2017-09-15

Over the past decade, Foo Fighter’s mainman Dave Grohl has managed to become something of a pop-culture ambassador for all things rock music.  From super-bowl halftime performances to a near-constant presence on the late-night talk show circuit, the man has seemingly become the go-to ‘rock’ guy for an industry in which the genre's relevance vanished long ago.  And while much of this attention is not undeserved (by all accounts Grohl is as genuine as they come), it's sometimes difficult to remember that at the end of the day Grohl is actually a member of a living, breathing rock band; one that even still releases albums.

The Foo Fighters have achieved what every band hopes for; a constant and upward trajectory that has been realized through sold-out tours and well-received records over the course of their two-decades-plus career.  From the humble beginnings of the ‘Grohl-all-by-his-lonesome’ debut to the massive chart success that followed (The Colour and the Shape, There is Nothing Left to Lose), the band managed to parlay their mid-90’s success into a new millennium rebirth that saw them transcend the ranks of modern rock into something even more accessible, all the while releasing some of their most artistically bold records (2002’s twice recorded One by One and 2005’s double-disc In Your Honor) and transforming into a full-blown stadium-act.

On the heels of 2015’s documentary/album experiment Sonic Highways, the Foo Fighters are back with what will be their ninth album, the aptly titled Concrete & Gold.  As is the case with the Foo’s previous two ‘three-guitar-lineup’ albums (Pat Smear was brought back into the fold for 2011’s Wasting Light), the songs on Concrete & Gold are packed with so many layers and parts they are almost bursting at the seams; a fact that Grohl seemingly addresses with the album’s opening track “T-Shirt”, confessing “I don’t wanna be Queen, just trying to keep my t-shirt clean” right before the song explodes into a Freddie Mercury-esque cascade of vocal harmonies.

But where Wasting Light felt like the band was still re-drafting its blueprint and the well-intentioned (but nonetheless underwhelming) follow-up Sonic Highways felt like Grohl was still searching, Concrete & Gold is, if nothing else, an exercise in artistic confidence.  Songs like the appropriately visceral “Run” and the fist-pumping sing-along “The Sky is a Neighborhood” reveal the band’s bark still carries some bite, while tracks like the pensive “Sunday Rain” and the brooding title track add a sense of balance that has been sorely missed on the band’s previous two efforts.

In fact, it’s that very balance that occasionally seeks to undermine what is an otherwise adventurous affair, with tracks like the faux-hardcore-scream-laden “La Dee Da” and head-scratchingly aggro-fueled “Make It Right” feeling like derivative missteps from a group of seasoned musicians, most of whom are a stone's throw away from turning 50.  But while the Foo’s amped-up indie-rock heyday may be a thing of the past, what remains is perhaps what Grohl had always intended: an honest to god arena-rock band delivering anthemic songs that aim to bludgeon the masses into aural submission.

And what is perhaps the most amazing part of the Foo Fighter’s story is the way in which they almost immediately stood apart, well outside the looming shadow that could have (and probably should have) engulfed any post-Nirvana project for Grohl.  The fact that Nirvana is only mentioned in this review as an ancillary footnote to an otherwise self-contained story speaks to the vision of Grohl and the standalone success of his career.  And while far from the band’s definitive work, Concrete & Gold is an obvious labor of love that more often than not hits its mark; a welcome return to form from one of alt-rock’s most enduring acts.

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars