Wow… where to start. For as long as I could personally remember, Foo Fighters have been one of my favourite bands and I went through a phase where I wouldn’t listen to anybody else. Having not released music for almost two years, Foo Fighters are definitely back. With “Concrete & Gold“ being their ninth studio album, it’s really nice to see how them back doing what they do best. As the Foo Fighters have over 160 songs in their discography, it was intriguing to know what this album would sound like when they announced it was coming out. When Dave Grohl announced the return of the Foo’s with this album, he mentioned the sound was like “Motorhead meets Sgt Pepper,” I can’t quite hear it myself, but there is definitely influences of that. Having being produced by Greg Kurstin, who’s produced people from the likes of Adele, I think the production that Kurstin has done really fits the song. Released on September 15th 2017… “Concrete & Gold” proves that the Foo’s are still the fighters of mainstream Rock N Roll.
The album kicks off with “T-Shirt” which is about wanting to “keep my t-shirt clean” through the good times and the bad, which can be quite hard. You can definitely hear the emotion in Dave’s voice as like a little cry for help, but what’s he upset about? He’s Dave Grohl for christ sake! Why so sad Dave? This part really sounds like Dave thinks that times are bad and he’s not sure what to do about it, but then you get the massive amplified Foo Fighters sound come screaming in. The clean vocals over the distorted guitars and banging drums seems to be Dave’s cry for help being answered. “There’s one thing I have learned, If it gets much better, It’s going to get worse” is a perfect example, we all know that if you want things to get better, it’s got to get worse first. The drop itself is quite frightening really and it felt unnecessary. The only reason why I think Foo Fighters put it there is to show off with a friendly “Hey! We’re back. Missed us?” With releasing “The Colour and the Shape” back in 1997, you can still hear elements from early Foo’s with songs like “Doll,” a lovely soft song that relatively has a creepy aspect to it, similar to “T-Shirt.”
Next up, we have “Run.” Released as the first single of the album, it was instantly liked by all the die-hard Foo Fighters fans. The drum beat itself has this latin type of beat which seems to be played in a lot of mainstream chart music at the moment, so maybe the Foo’s tried to fit in the “crowd” a bit more. With their heavy metal element of the guitars, you can definitely understand a little bit more of what Dave said about the album sounding a bit like Motorhead, but mixed with the Beatles? Not a chance. I think this song is a perfect example of the Foo Fighters ‘sound… loud guitars, heavy drums, simple bass lines and Dave Grohl going mental. Everybody seems to think this is one of the best songs on the album but I think it’s pretty poor. The instruments are just mediocre, and as a musician myself, nothing sticks out to me. The best parts are the pre chorus sections which really drops the sound and creates this different rhythmical flow which is quite interesting. The meaning behind the actual song seems to be the most interesting aspect of the song itself, what are they running from? Maybe from our society at the moment? Who knows, I just wish this song had a bit of a conclusion of what the hell was going on.
“Make It Right” is definitely one of THE best songs on this album. It’s got such groovy lyrical vocal lines and it’s so nice to hear the Foo’s sounding very old school. With Justin Timberlake doing very subtle backing vocals, it makes the song so much more effective. The funky drum parts and fills are so good, probably my favourite instrumentation of this song. “Hop on the train to nowhere baby, Don’t you wanna hitch a ride?” proves this song feels like a journey to “making the song right” (pun intended ay) and it features a hard aggressive groove from the guitars. As much I think this song sounds like a great rock song, it definitely has some mainstream pop elements, maybe it’s from the backing vocals? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s enjoyable to listen to and that’s the most important thing I suppose.
Released as the second single of the album, “The Sky is a Neighbourhood” has gorgeous harmonies arranged to set the mood and they sound so lovely with the guitars. The beginning of this track sounds like it should be on a scene of Drake and Josh or Zoey 101 because it has that Nickelodeon surf rock kind of sound which I can’t quite describe! Dave’s main vocals are so raw and sound like they were recorded miles away from all the music which is so different to all their other songs. The song itself is obviously about all the people we have lost who were musicians and have made a “big band” in heaven. Obviously, we’re getting people saying “this song is about Kurt” and it could well be! What makes this song so different to anything they’ve ever done before is the unexpected chord changes and the orchestral instruments. Kinga Bacik plays cello, Thomas Lea plays viola, Ginny Luke plays violin and Alison Mosshart does the backing vocals. My personal favourite part of the song is when the song completely dies down to just Dave and the strange guitar part which has been drowned in de tune chorus, it’s absolutely magical. I think the visual side of music is just as important as the audio and the music video for this song is a killer! It definitely needs to be featured on Stranger Things somehow.
When I first listened to “La Dee Da,” it was when Foo Fighters started playing it live and I really didn’t like it, but hearing the studio version, it’s growing on me. It’s nice how they’re trying to bring the punk sound more out into the mainstream music. The song itself is very simple and works around only three chords. The lyrics aren’t very complex but it’s definitely giving the “I can do whatever the f*** I want attitude.” The screaming vocals can sometimes be too much, but I don’t think there could be any other way to have them. It reminds me a bit of “Wattershed,” so once again, it’s nice to hear the Foo’s being old school, but they don’t seem to evolve as much as I’d like. Best part of the song is hands down the stop with the ascending game like sound leading back into the chorus. It’s definitely a middle finger up song which is very “Foo Fighters.”
“Dirty Water” is a gorgeous song. Probably my favourite song of the whole album because it’s the Foo Fighters trying something different. The first chords are just plain and simple sounding and could be took as a little nursery rhyme for a child, but when the drums kick in, the guitars are so much more sophisticated and jazzy. The space-like, ambient backing vocals from Inara George are breathless and fits so nicely with Dave’s. The backing vocals of this song probably has the most iconic vocals of the album because you can actually tell that’s her, whereas listening to Justin Timberlake’s on “Make It Right,” it’s just generic backing vocals that don’t make such an impact like Dirty Water does. Not really liking the end of the song when it suddenly amplifies with an overdrive distortion sound because it just goes back to generic Foo Fighters, but overall one of the best tracks on the album.
I’m not sure if it’s just me that thinks it, but “Arrows,” seems to have very similar chords to “The Sky is a Neighbourhood” but has a completely different feel. I’m really not a huge fan of this song because it’s just mediocre “rock.” The Foo’s seems to be going down little riff’s avenues to find things that sound catchy, which the riffs are, but from a musicians point of view, I want to hear things that are a bit more different to the same sounding stuff all the time. The song just feels like it’s missing loads of elements, for example, comparing it to Best of You… it just doesn’t have any of the power that it needs. Only thing I like of this song is the vocal mix fits really well but overall, it’s just boring.
“Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)” is definitely the “Beatles” song of the album. It’s cheesy but a gentle approach to what seems like a beautiful, sad song. “There ain’t no superheroes, they’re underground, Happy ever after” is a bit morbid if you really think about it, are the superheroes dead? I think this is Dave Grohl’s approach to a realistic “world” because well, like that meme that’s on the internet… “not all heroes wear capes,” because superheroes don’t exist, if you want them to be, then be a good person and help others because that’s probably the definition of one…
Paul McCartney opens up “Sunday Rain“ with a simple but effective drum pattern. Taylor Hawkins sings lead on this song and I always forget how good his voice actually is. The sharp guitar parts and spacey long chords really fit the song so well. I’m not completely sure why I think this, but maybe it’s cause McCartney’s on the song but this definitely reminds of a Beatles song just with a more huskier vocal line. Good song, very catchy too.
“The Line” could be the “Best of You” song of the album because the instrumentation side of the song is really there, but I’m really not feeling it. The chorus is just boring and lyrically I think it’s very Pop Punk/Blink 182 like, it just doesn’t feel like a Foo Fighters song. It’s sad really, because if this was me reviewing it at the age of 16 I would be buzzing and loving the song, but at the age of 20, I just don’t get it.
The beginning of “Concrete and Gold” is drowning in fatigue and aches for the song to properly ‘start’ and kind of has the same aspect as “Exhausted” from the first Foo Fighters album. The most interesting part of this song is the backing vocals are sung by Boyz II Men vocalist Shawn Stockman. As the song picks up with the full band entering, it still feels really tiring and forced. Personally to end an album, you need a song that kicks arse and give a nice farewell, not one that’s going to make you fall asleep.
Overall, the first half of this album are the better one’s and it’s so good to see the Foo Fighters back, but it’s definitely not their best album. With “The Colour and the Shape” being my favourite album they’ve done, “Concrete and Gold” really doesn’t stand anywhere near it. After 23 years, you’d think they’d start trying to do some new stuff, yeah fair enough they’re experimenting with some killer guitar effects, but the songs are still the same and it’s just quite sad.
Score – 6.5/10
Favourite Tracks: Make it Right, The Sky is a Neighbourhood, La Dee Da, Dirty Water, Sunday Rain.