Concrete And Gold
Album Review by Rustyn Clark
It’s hard to tell if Foo Fighters have one foot in the grave or they are climbing out of it with their latest album. Concrete and Gold is the band’s ninth album since their first phoenix-like emergence from the ashes of Nirvana in 1994. They’ve come a long ways since what has to be their most beloved album, 1997’s The Colour And The Shape, but have they changed for better or worse?
The album opens up softly – almost sweetly – giving us hope that we may be getting a taste of what made us love Foo Fighters so much in the first place. Before you can actually begin to reminisce about the glory days of “Everlong” or their cover of Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” they abruptly surprise you – pleasantly – by cranking it up to 11! The full sound of the band harmonizing behind a strong front guitar riff immediately perks your ears and makes you pay attention.
This runs right into the first single from the album, “Run,” another classic Foo Fighters sound. Then it’s mixed with look-at-us-we’re-still-young-and-fresh screaming vocals and guitar pedals that work for the song but sound disturbingly contrived. Only Greg Kurstin’s production magic helps keep each track from simply bleeding into the next.
Then there’s eight tracks of solid, if somewhat bland and uninspired, rock and roll. It definitely sounds like Foo Fighters, no mistaking that, but it feels like it’s missing a certain… je ne sais quoi. The album is a great collection of Foo Fighter fodder that would be perfectly at home as indecipherably familiar background music in The Sims 4. The entire album is solid, masterfully crafted, and yet very forced.
Desperation. That’s what this album smells of. Nothing gives off the scent of fading glory quite like an album full of new songs with old sounds. Unless you bring in major names from other bands to help you out.
Grohl admitted that Justin Timberlake chipped in on at least one track as supporting vocals – but he’s not credited and no matter how many times or how hard I listened, I never heard a note of the former boy-band crooner. Even though Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men helps out with the vocals on “Concrete and Gold,” it just sounds like standard Foo Fighters vocals. You’d never guess they featured Alison Mosshart on two other tracks, either.
It’s unfortunate they didn’t allow their guest vocalists a little more of a spotlight in the songs they were featured in – they pass up a great opportunity to pick up a new fan-base. By rail-roading their guest musicians Grohl shows an unwillingness to collaborate and reinforce the fact he’s feeling his influence in the rock-world diminish.
Despite all the smack I’ve dished out about the Foo Fighters, it is a good album. I’m hard on them because I love them – and I want them to continue the legacy that caught my ear in the first place. Maybe I need to realize the Foo Fighters that gave us “My Hero” are still back in 1997 and the Foo Fighters of today will only deliver world-class, star-studded, over-produced, pod-fodder. It listens well if you don’t want to have to pay attention, but upon a close listen and with admittedly high-expectations, this album fails to meet expectations.
The last track, “Concrete and Gold” left me feeling good and wanting more. But only more of that last track – after a minute it gave me an eerie “Comfortably Numb” vibe that Pink Floyd could be proud of. Maybe that’s just what Grohl was shooting for, a Foo Fighters song with a captivating timelessness. I could easily see it softly echoing overhead on the speakers in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
Concrete and Gold is out now and available to listen to on Spotify. Give it a listen, it’s Foo Fighters.