How does a band keep things fresh after nine albums? For Foo Fighters, it’s been production gimmicks; In Your Honour was a half-electric/half-acoustic double album, Wasting Light was a back-to-basics album recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage and each of Sonic Highways’ tracks was recorded in a different American city… So, what’s the twist with the new album? There isn’t one. And to be honest, at this stage that almost feels a gimmick in itself.
On Concrete and Gold, Foo Fighters play things straight and that’s a good thing. It’s a focused set of ten rock songs (plus a one-minute intro track) and features some of the band’s best song-writing in a while. It’s also the heaviest album the band have put out in a while too – demonstrated pretty clearly by lead single ‘Run’. Structurally, the track is Foo-by-the-numbers, using the same quiet then loud structure as many of their biggest hits (see: ‘The Pretender’ and ‘All My Life’). It’s also straightforward lyrically, with Dave Grohl calling for the listener to start living their life the way they want to. It’s not the most original song as far as Foo Fighters go, but it’s still good. It doesn’t try to be anything more than a great rock song and it definitely succeeds at being that.
The first half of the album is filled with heavy tracks like ‘Run’, with Grohl busting out some screaming vocals on pretty much every song up until the more laid-back ‘Dirty Water’. Both ‘Make It Right’ and ‘La Dee Da’ are solid, with the former having a particular classic rock swagger to it, but ‘The Sky Is A Neighborhood’ is the real highlight from Concrete and Gold’s first half. The lyrics are pretty goofy – the way that Dave Grohl’s often are – but they’re endearingly goofy. I especially love the image of the song’s protagonist ‘banging on the ceiling’ telling Heaven to ‘keep it down’. Sung by pretty much anyone else, I doubt the song would work, but Grohl really sells it.
Another album highlight is ‘Happy Ever After (Zero Hours)’. The song is a complete opposite to ‘Run’, both in terms of sound and lyrics. It’s filled with soft acoustic instrumentation – including a low-key bit of harmonica and violin – and shows that the band are just as good at the quiet moments as they are the loud ones. While ‘Run’ felt like a call to action (‘Run for your life’), ‘Happy Ever After’ feels incredibly defeatist, focusing on someone who’s stuck in a rut in their life, passing their time ‘counting shadows on the wall’ waiting for zero hour. The band also refrain from a big heavy finish – like the one on the album’s other quiet track, ‘Dirty Water’ – which I’m thankful for.
The two songs that follow on from it, unfortunately, are easily Concrete and Gold’s weakest tracks. ‘Sunday Rain’ is bland, with the lyrics sounding like they were thrown together in a few minutes. The only interesting thing the track has going for it is the fact that Paul McCartney is playing the drums (though it’s not something you’d exactly notice when listening to it…) ‘The Line’ suffers from sounding like just about every other Foo Fighters song out there, having very little to make it stand out. It’s not outright bad – nothing on Concrete and Gold is – but it’s just so incredibly middling.
After ‘The Line’, the album abruptly transitions into its closing title track, which might just be its best moment. For a band that doesn’t bother with experimentation too much, ‘Concrete and Gold’ doesn’t sound like any other track that Foo Fighters have put out, having a clear Pink Floyd influence. The combination of the hazy reverb-drenched guitars and the choir-like backing vocals on the chorus really give it a unique edge. My only issue with the track is that it could have easily been a few minutes longer. In the end, it does a great job of rounding off another solid outing from Foo Fighters. Concrete and Gold proves that the band don’t need production gimmicks to make a good album, just good songs.
Best Tracks: ‘The Sky Is A Neighborhood’, ‘Happy Ever After (Zero Hours)’, ‘Concrete and Gold’