Foo Fighters, Concrete and Gold | Album Review
Foo Fighters bring the cool, the heat, and some musical diversity on their intriguing album following a three-year hiatus, ‘Concrete and Gold.’
Foo Fighters make a highly-anticipated return in 2017 with a new album, Concrete and Gold. The last outing by the band, Sonic Highways, was respectable, but not nearly as accomplished as Wasting Light from 2011. On Concrete and Gold, Dave Grohl and company offer the listener plenty of ear candy. At times, they hit hard, while at other times, they scale things back. As a whole, this is intriguing.
The brief “T-Shirt” commences reservedly. This lasts a mere 30 seconds, before Foo Fighters show their Foo Fighter-ness. Interestingly, “T-Shirt” foreshadows a number of songs from Concrete and Gold.
“Run,” the first full-length number, surprisingly begins with a certain amount of restraint. The first half of the intro lacks ferocity. The second half, however, begins the build-up, which is propelled by drums and capped off with biting guitars. Once the intensity is achieved, there’s a clear departure from the melodic beginning. The verses are intense, characterized more by grit than tunefulness. The chorus reinstates melodic finesse. Initially a bit off-putting, “Run” unveils its magic with successive listens.
“Make It Right” builds on the momentum established by “Run.” The difference is, Foo Fighters get off to a rollicking start, thanks to a funky groove and hard-hitting riffs. Grohl is turned up, delivering assertive vocals, and dropping his favorite bomb – the f-bomb. In addition to the spirited nature of the performance, “Make It Right” benefits from a catchy chorus and fantastic harmonic progression.
“The Sky is a Neighborhood”
“The Sky is a Neighborhood” is the ‘cat’s meow.’ It begins lushly, with an ambient sound, led by choral vocals, guitar, and cello. Soon enough, Grohl enters, something like a “bull in a china shop,” giving the song an edgier, hard-rock sound. Even so, he possesses a soulfulness, and “Sky is a Neighborhood” has pop sensibilities. The chorus is the crowning achievement, featuring mammoth, menacing guitars and biting, exuberant vocals.
“Oh, my dear / Heaven is a big band now / Gotta get to sleep somehow / Bangin’ on the ceiling / Bangin’ on the ceiling / keep it down.”
Following up “The Sky is a Neighborhood” is an arduous task. Fortunately, “La Dee Da” is up to the challenge. Commencing rhythmically, the identity of “La Dee Da” is established early on. It’s every bit as tough as “Make it Right,” possessing charm equal to “The Sky is a Neighborhood.” This is a ‘takes no prisoners’ joint, which Foo Fighters nail without a hitch.
“Dirty Water” initially changes the pace. Like “T-Shirt” and “Run,” it begins exhibiting restraint. This sound is uncharacteristic to what precedes, which makes it intriguing. About halfway through, the dynamics increase pronouncedly, and the hard-rocking Foo Fighters sound returns. All in all, “Dirty Water” is another well-rounded joint.
“Arrows” keeps the punches coming. It doesn’t begin nearly as restrained as “Dirty Water,” yet it’s also not ‘balls to the walls’ at first. “Arrows” benefits from its minor key, mysteriousness, and harmonic progression. Grohl continues to be assertive and unapologetic in regards to intensity. As a frontman, he continues to be among the elite.
Keeping in step with the last couple of tracks, “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)” shows conservativeness on the part of the band. They pull back as opposed to punch and throw it in your face. While the hard-hitting stuff provides more of an adrenaline rush, this more melodic, thoughtful side of the band is captivating as well. “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)” is one of few songs where the cool is maintained, not replaced with angst.
“Sunday Rain,” naturally, is more souped-up from the jump than “Happy Every After.” Both the music and vocals are enigmatic and dark. Grohl’s tone sounds a bit smokier, as if he’s ‘up to no good.’ Melodically, this is beautiful, particularly the chorus. Among highlights is the bridge, which changes up the harmonic progression and amplifies the intensity. The jazz piano solo at the end is a nice, quirky touch.
“The Line” is a type of record possessing many superb characteristics, but doesn’t deliver a knockout punch as the final product. Like much of Concrete and Gold, the guitars are amped up to the max, particularly on the chorus. Grohl is commanding, even if his backdrop is sometimes overloaded. The chorus gives “The Line” more memorability to accompany those edgy guitars. If nothing else, the spirit of rock and roll thrives. The biggest rub compared to the crème de la crème of Concrete and Gold is the lack of infectiousness, particularly melodically, compared to the best.
Title track “Concrete and Gold” concludes heavily and intensely. Grohl sings in an undertone, yet at the same time, he doesn’t lack oomph. The tempo is slow while the song, as a whole, sounds unhurried; relaxed, yet tense. Ultimately, it’s a fitting close given the many different ideas Foo Fighters off up throughout Concrete and Gold.
All in all, Foo Fighters shine on Concrete and Gold. This album is certainly more compelling than their 2014 effort, Sonic Highways. There are no outright misses, with all songs having redeeming characteristics. No, not every song is a hit, but there are enough gems to make this satisfactory as a whole.
Gems: “Run,” “Make it Right,” “The Sky is a Neighborhood, “La Dee Da” & “Arrows”