It may seem overly simplistic, but it is possible to split most of the Foo Fighters' songs into two distinct categories; The heartfelt, emotive songwriting of ‘My Hero’, ‘Best Of You’ and ‘These Days’ and the OTT, frantic quasi-metal of ‘All My Life’, ‘The Pretender’ and ‘White Limo’. Interestingly, recent single ‘Run’ — released prior to their triumphant Glastonbury performance — combined these opposing facets to thrilling effect and served as a promising teaser track.
It’s disappointing then that the band’s ninth album, ‘Concrete And Gold’, fails to excite in quite the same way. As Dave Grohl explained in a humorous animated video, he enlisted Sia and Adele producer Greg Kurstin after becoming obsessed with his indie pop group The Bird and The Bee. The result is a record that certainly sounds huge but lacks any real emotional depth and at times, reeks of a band cruising on autopilot.
This is especially typical of the Alison Mosshart assisted ‘La Dee Da’ which, despite its intriguing lyrics, feels particularly lacklustre and directionless. The same can be said for over-saturated rocker ‘The Line’, which is similarly contrived and sounds strictly like B-side material. Meanwhile, you’d be hard pressed to find a duller moment in the Foo’s back catalogue than the lumbersome and lethargic title cut.
Proceedings begin with the grand but frustratingly short ‘T-Shirt’, which moves quickly from a bare bones acoustic section to Queen-like guitar fireworks. Better still is ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’, featuring an earworm of a chorus, although it must be said that the lyrical refrain of “banging on the ceiling” is slightly questionable. However, its blend of rich instrumentation and kaleidoscopic effects make it decidedly epic.
‘Dirty Water’ climaxes with a heavy riffing groove that Josh Homme would be proud of and ‘Sunday Rain’ is serviceable enough while making good use of Taylor Hawkin’s throaty vocals, even if the track lingers on for two or three minutes longer that it should do. Paul McCartney’s inclusion on the album is obvious after Grohl named The Beatles as an influence during the writing process yet you have to wonder why his talents were wasted on such a rudimentary drum track.
When one thinks of the Foo Fighter’s most pleasing moments you tend to think of songs that, behind the bombast and visceral guitars, pack an emotional punch. It’s the latter which leads us to perhaps the biggest problem with ‘Concrete And Gold’ and one the band doesn’t really seek to address across its 50 or so minutes. This, coupled with the fact the fleeting attempts at sonic experimentation aren’t particularly successful, means it leaves a cold imprint on an LP that is slightly disjointed and underwhelming. And while there’s nothing that will diminish their legacy or standing in rock music, there’s very little material that pushes the band forward either.
Words: Luke Winstanley
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