Review: Foo Fighters: 'Concrete and Gold'
Foo Fighters showcase their unceasing confidence and conviction through stadium-rock anthems and doom fuelled psychedelia
After apparent attempts to break away from the bands comfort zone in 'Sonic Highways' (2014) and 'Wasting Light' (2011), the Foo Fighters has committed themselves in 'Concrete and Gold', in quoting Grohl's poetic idiolect, to 'make a f*cking album like a normal band'. One would of course not usually associate 'normal' with high-profile collaborations with Justin Timberlake and Paul McCartney, but as with the 'Official Band Announcement' video uploaded eighteen months to denounce rumours of imminent disperse, it is perhaps all in keeping with a sense of humour that no other act can convincingly replicate. Nonetheless, after a long break following the 'Sonic Highways' tour that allowed writers block to creep up on Dave Grohl and with the more contemporary affiliated Greg Kurstin at the mixing desk (having worked with Adele, Ellie Goulding and more recently Liam Gallagher), the Foo Fighters have lived up to their press release statement in working towards a sound where 'hard rock extremes and pop sensibilities collide' in putting together an album that is simultaneously up-to-date and comfortingly familiar. Having said this, in comparison with the previous releases already mentioned, it could be argued that 'Concrete and Gold' is the closest move towards a stylistic departure for the band.
Few would question Dave Grohl's credentials as a fervent showman, though there are artistic clues throughout this album which imply a desire of paying tribute to many others: In 'T-shirt' the spirit of Freddy Mercury is present in the operatic stadium rock dynamics to ready the stage for the raging temperamentalism of 'Run', which with the 'Helter Skelter' (1968) imitated riff and the tactful use of peaking in 'the rats are on parade' makes this arguably one of the Foo's hardest and most Zeppelin inspired works. This is followed by the schizoid 'Make It Right', which succeeds in combining the funky riffs and syncopated vocals of Rage Against the Machine with Mercury's continuing presence within the operatic ambience. This transcends to 'The Sky Is a Neighbourhood', which following a section that both teases elements of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'We Will Rock You', oddly fusions the Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind' (1988) to trace the band back to their early roots in grunge and the gang vocals in The Pretty Reckless's 'Heaven Knows' (2014) to constitute a humdrum yet commercially palpable chorus. The maddening pulse in 'La Dee Da' turns the aggression up a notch before 'Dirty Water' showcases a bipolar structural dynamic, to conclude a head-bangingly opening half of the album before the band delve deeper into the psychedelic soundscapes assimilated from the repertoire of the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath.
'Happy Ever After' and 'Sunday Rain', are without a doubt the most Beatle-esque contributions; the latter marks a lead vocal rendition from Taylor Hawkins and a contribution from Paul McCartney on drums (which could be interpreted as slightly condescending towards Ringo). The productive elements, particularly the double-tracking on the vocals, certainly come across as a conscious attempt from the band to align themselves within (or simply to pay tribute to) the 'Abbey Road' ballpark, however, this still does not disguise the sound that the band through time have become accustomed to. This is particularly the case for the sludge-coated and doom metal inspired 'Concrete and Gold', arguably the bands most progressive offering; despite being driven by an ostinato constituted entirely of grunting fuzz which would initiate envy from the camps of both Royal Blood and Skrillex, a chorus acquired from Dark Side of the Moon (1970) and a wild-west inspired mid-section, Grohl's post-grunge inspired vocal despondency remains as familiar and relatable as it was welcome in post- Cobain era.
Perhaps the fairest way to describe this album is to regard it as business as usual with added complimentary tributes and understated cameos. Unless one is ultimately aspiring to the most cosmic figments of the avant-garde continuum, homeostasis itself becomes the essence of one's musical appeal which is also the case for the likes of Jamiroquai and Stereophonics who have impressively surpassed twenty years in the entertainment industry's most unscrupulous division. It would not be fair to regard 'Concrete and Gold' as a return to form because this is something the Foo Fighters have never been without, however this album still deserves to hold its own merits its noisy, chest-thumping at times trippy brilliance to remind the listener that 'normal' does not equate to business as usual in Dave Grohl's mind.