Whilst it may not be a stonewall classic, Concrete and Gold shows a band seeking to expand their capabilities and sound, all to great effect.
If you look up the word “massive” in the dictionary, you’ll likely see the words “Foo Fighters” written as its definition. Indeed the rock titans never try to go small; whether it’s a cross-country, multi-studio recorded album and accompanying eight-part documentary series, a whole two-hour show to announce that they’re headlining Glastonbury, a throne of guitars to cater for Dave Grohl and his broken leg at live shows, or, most recently, taking over a pub in their name for a whole week to celebrate an album release, Foo Fighters never do anything small or safe, and they’re the world’s biggest rock band because of it. At this point in their career, the Foos can virtually do whatever they want, including working with producer Greg Kurstin of Sia and Adele fame. Yes, it’s true, album number nine, Concrete and Gold, sees the Foo Fighters pushing the boat more than ever before, combining their trademark anthemic sound with varying styles, grooves and rhythms. For the first time, we get an avant-garde Foo Fighters album.
The three songs released over the summer, ‘Run‘, ‘The Sky Is a Neighbourhood‘ and ‘The Line’, show the Foos in their most traditional vein, launching powerful choruses, big riffs and overall three mightily impressive rock n’ rollers. The former is a rawer take, much like earlier tracks ‘Low’ and 2011’s ‘White Limo’, the second strikes as an utterly huge ballad, and the latter recalls the grandiose and passion of ‘Best of You’. If you’re looking for traditional Foo Fighters material, Concrete and Gold undoubtedly packs this. As the biggest band still sticking up for good old guitar music, ‘Make It Right’ will come as no surprise, the AC/DC-like riff work and blues style work as a fantastic tribute to those who laid the groundwork for rock music, Foo Fighters have never sounded this damn groovy.
Kurstin’s touch rears its head for the first time on ‘La Dee Da’, the band utilise newest member Rami Jaffrey and his keys to mould the song into the album’s most experimental and eclectic track. But fear not, Grohl packs in a classically heavy Foos hook; if Dave Grohl and Stevie Wonder had a child, it would be something like ‘La Dee Da’. Like Sonic Highways’ ‘Subterranean’, ‘Dirty Water’ is a smoother and lighter take which, as expected, explodes with an unmistakable Foo Fighters refrain. Whilst the recruitment of Kurstin may have been to give the band a new edge and effect (it’s still evident), the band strike a strong balance in order to not alienate fans. ‘Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)’ is the band’s Beatles moment, hearkening back to Grohl’s awe-inspiring Oscars performance of Paul McCartney‘s solo ‘Blackbird’, and ‘Sunday Rain’ is usual drummer and backing vocalist Taylor Hawkins’ chance to shine, McCartney ironically being the one to record drums on the track.
As the album closes out with the sobering and meticulous title track, featuring the much talked about appearance of Boyz II Men vocalist Shaun Stockman and his layered vocal tracks, Foo Fighters’ experimental work finishes up and stands as a rather remarkable success story for the band. It’s not a wall to wall classic, it drags at times and some tracks are a touch forgettable, but for the bold ambition and new direction so late in their career, it’s a fantastic accomplishment. To draw a comparison, this is the band’s Use Your Illusion; sure, they may be lost on the scale at times and it might be a slightly difficult pill for fans to swallow at first, but Concrete and Gold still manages to undeniably be a Foo Fighters record at its core. Concrete and Gold is a welcome surprise, particularly for the naysayers who lament the band’s apparent staleness and unwillingness to expand. Grohl and co. kindly extend a middle finger to the doubters, as they rightly deserve to for the veterans have pulled it off once again.
Concrete and Gold is available now via RCA Records.