With Concrete and Gold, Foo Fighters’ ninth album, Dave Grohl and his band of merry musicians seem at ease with recording again. Following on from two uneven releases that relied too heavily on concept and not enough on execution, Concrete and Gold sees the Foos happy to just write, craft and perform some great songs.
Their most comprehensively satisfying album in quite some time, the boys seem less concerned with trying to hide their influences and happily embrace them while still retaining a sense of who they are as a band and anchoring that classic Foo Fighters sound.
This is perhaps best encapsulated by the short and punchy album opener “T-Shirt,” in which Grohl sings, “I don’t want to be King / I just wanna sing a love song / Pretend there’s nothing wrong.” The first words uttered on the album point to a desire to escape the current political landscape, toss aside ego-driven ambition (which he might have failed at in claiming the album as “Motorhead’s version of Sgt. Pepper’s”) and return to the simple joy and power of music. From its relaxed acoustic strums the track explodes into a multilayered hybrid of Queen, E.L.O. and the Beatles with bombastic production, winding melodies and stacked harmonies before resolving back to the initial stripped down inspiration. And all this is done in just one minute and twenty-three seconds.
From there the album launches into the raucous, stadium ready-lead single “Run,” the most Foo-ey track on the album as it blends anger, angst and awakening. Grounded by the hard hitting beats of Taylor Hawkins, the song takes a swipe at the USA’s current commander-in-chief as it alerts us that “The rats are on parade / Another mad charade” and an apparently apathetic and anesthetized populace in desperate need to “wake up / run for your life with me.”
With “Make It Right” (featuring Justin Timberlake on breezy Beach Boy stylized backing vocals), the band barrels through some surf rock. On “The Sky Is A Neighbourhood” sparse verses collide with a stack-upon-stack backing for the chorus that manages to just stay this side of overblown.
Elsewhere on “La Dee Da” they channel Led Zeppelin with all the bluster they can manage, and on “Dirty Water” summery, west coast vibes rise to the surface before turning tidal, thrusting a pulsating mix of chunky guitars and fuzzed out power chords. And on tracks like “Arrows” and “The Line,” solid rock grooves are laid down to keep the momentum going.
The dreamy “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)” and “Sunday Rain” offer a nod to an upbringing of a musical Fab Four diet with the Fab One, Sir Paul McCartney, gracing us with his presence on – you guessed it – drums… wait what? Yep, continuing the musical injustice set by Kanye West one of music’s chosen ones is relegated to session muso. Thankfully though, McCartney’s presence does inspire a very Beatles-esque production on “Sunday Rain” that sees Hawkins on lead vocals (well, yeah… I guess, Paul was in his seat.).
The titular album closer “Concrete and Gold” uncoils in a slow-motion explosion of dark rock-psychedelica that allows you to take in the final bow of an album that has swept you up in the preceding 49 minutes.
Aptly named, Concrete and Gold allows the beauty of the music to shine, combining the grit of rock that the Foo Fighters have built their reputation on with a little bit of pop production polish and songcraft. It may not be an album that sees Foo Fighters pushing that far out of their comfort zone, but sometimes a return to form and a satisfying musical journey is all that’s needed.
Notable Tracks: “Make It Right” | “Sunday Rain” | “T-Shirt” | “The Sky Is A Neighborhood”