Album Review: Foo Fighters – ‘Concrete and Gold’

One for the die-hards

There is little to be said about Foo Fighters that hasn’t already been etched in stone over their twenty-plus years in action. Their alternative blend of post-grunge and hard rock has made them one of the giants of the genre, and of music in general, over the past few years.

This decade has seen many highs and lows for the band. Their seventh record, 2011’s Wasting Light, was a real watershed moment. While it wasn’t a reinvention of the wheel in terms of sonic direction, the songwriting prowess that Dave Grohl and company brought to the record still made an enjoyable experience, particularly for existing fans.

2014’s Sonic Highways was a somewhat of a misstep compared to this effort, despite the record including the band’s most ambitious tracks in recent memory. After an underwhelming response to the album, and the subsequent disruption of their world tour thanks to Grohl’s leg injury, it was beginning to look as though Foo Fighters had lost their touch.

Concrete and Gold, however, is a record that sees the band return to form. This is Foo Fighters as they have always been, and while the album doesn’t break any new ground, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The lyrical content and ideas this record plays with are quite direct in their approach, tackling issues of politics and the current state of America, but also allowing for moments of introspective reflection. This contrast and conflict is reflected in the title, but also musically: many tracks sparkle with a great balance of quiet and explosive moments, of light and shade.

Foo Fighters have reached a point in their career where writing a great record for the long-serving, ticket-buying die-hards may be just what the doctor ordered.

The track Run is the first big success on Concrete and Gold, with an old-school, hard rock tone and an expansive song structure that welcomes you in to the record. The Sky is a Neighbourhood is also a notable early gem, harking back to the classic Foo Fighters sound of years past.

Yet, even on the more enjoyable tracks, there is one glaring problem that seems ever-recurring on modern rock records: the squeaky-clean production.

Given that so much of the Foo Fighters charm comes from the rawness of their music, overworked production seems to rob the fantastic songwriting material of much of its majesty.

But, there are moments when that rawness comes back, to wonderful effect. The track La Dee Da is an outstanding example, with its distorted vocals and repetitive but undeniably catchy riff.

Similarly, the title track also brings a heavy, anthemic quality to the record that really stands out compared to the many clean and digitally produced tracks.

The band also pulls a couple of unorthodox moves in the second half of the album, including the Beatles-inspired Sunday Rain, and the folky flavour of Happy Ever After (Zero Hour). Featuring charming guitar parts and stunning instrumentation, ‘Happy‘ is also a lyrical high point, as Grohl muses on the idea that there aren’t any real heroes, or people to inspire us, anymore; a sobering realisation.

While Concrete and Gold did not bring much in terms of new ideas to the table, that seems to have been done for a reason. This record knows exactly what it is. It is a well-written and enjoyable grunge / hard rock record that will please the hardcore fans. While it may not win over many new listeners for the band, Foo Fighters have reached a point in their career where writing a great record for the long-serving, ticket-buying die-hards may be just what the doctor ordered.

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