Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways

by D R Pautsch Rating:5 Release Date:2014-11-10

The entrance of Dave Grohl into the annuls of rock history begins with this apocryphal tale. Chad Channing, Nirvana's original (although in truth, second) drummer had left. They had already laid down versions of Nevermind by this time, almost all of which would be re-recorded. Nevermind's producer, Butch Vig, received a tape of the new recordings in the post. The opening words on that tape were (allegedly) "Hey Butch, we've got a new drummer, his name is Dave Grohl, and he's the best drummer in the world." 

Thus Dave Grohl was introduced to the world. Somehow, between then and now, Grohl has become the main man of rock. How this has quite happened is puzzling, and this latest offering from the Foo Fighters will leave many scratching their heads.

The concept behind this album is that it contains eight tracks recorded in eight legendary studios in eight different cities. If that wasn't enough, the whole thing arrives with an accompanying eight-part (obviously) documentary, which covers the recording, back-story and scene-setting of each individual track. 

Only the Don of Rock could get away with such. Not that concepts are new for Foo Fighters albums. They have done acoustic albums, and double albums which mix loud and soft. After the last (possibly best for a long time) album, Wasting Light, there were reports of a break-up. You get the feeling that only concepts like this one will keep Grohl interested in the Foos, but on this offering he doesn't actually sound that interested in the music.  

The Foo Fighters have always produced better singles than albums, but on this effort neither a solid single or album is in evidence. 'Something From Nothing' or 'Congregation' are the high-water-marks on this album. The former of those tracks starts out low-key but ends with Grohl screaming and bringing it home in raucous fashion.  

However, there are too many moments that just don't deliver. 'What Did I Do?/God As My Witness' doesn't so much fade out as shuffle out the door, head down in shame. Tracks like 'In the Clear' and 'Outside' are fine but don't linger long in the memory. It almost feels like Grohl has become the Radio Friendly Unit Shifter that Kurt Cobain hated himself for being.

It's hard to dislike Grohl and Foo Fighters. They have a back-catalogue which chimes so well and contains so many memorable rock moments. This isn't one of them. It's an underwhelming concept album which, when you listen to it, has no discernible concept and doesn't linger for very long after it's finished.

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