I’ve been following the Foo Fighters since their inception, not as a die-hard fan but as someone who loves Dave Grohl’s incredible talent as a multi-instrumentalist and music visionary. I’ve enjoyed all their albums to date but can always identify considerable peaks and troughs where some songs are just simply stronger and grab my attention more than others. Rarely to my mind have they made an album that feels like a complete cohesive picture… that is, until now.
Having most recently caught the Foos on TV from their rather brilliant show at Glastonbury and hearing “Run” for the first time, I was excited to see that they’d come out with a rugged and distinctly heavy song as lead single from the new album. That had whetted my appetite for more, and yet I knew they would not produce an entire album that shouted out with that much ferocity. I knew I had to listen with an open mind.
When you remove any potentially limiting expectations and take this album as a full piece of art rather than just another collection of songs, then you can start to see what Foo Fighters are aiming for here. When you’re a multi-platinum band with worldwide success and you’re eight albums into your pretty flawless career, then frankly you can afford to play a little and get a bit experimental.
I liked the video they have released via their Facebook page where Dave Grohl explains how the album came about (see below). In the age of digital media where there is less contact with album sleeves and inlay cards, it was a great way to give some background into the unexpected collaborations and the way the album evolved that may otherwise have been missed.
On first listen, I was tempted to summarise that it was another set of usual Foos peaks and troughs, but, the more I have listened the more it has substantially grown on me and grown into something bigger. It’s not a concept album as such, there are of course some killer individual tracks like “Run” and “The Sky is a Neighbourhood” but as a whole you would benefit from listening in its entirety and in an uninterrupted place where you can deeply indulge in the soundscapes and sonic environments is creates.
The overriding feeling it generates is one of immensity and amplitude, everything just feels big. Even on the quieter songs, there is an element of space created, which contributes to the overall grandeur and magnitude of the album.
You can get completely immersed in “Arrows” with its dark atmospheric chorus and driving riff. This is immediately juxtaposed with the start of “Happy Ever After” which, while starting off with a simple vocal and guitar intro, manages to grow into a sumptuous song with beautiful Beach Boys-esque layered vocals.
“Sunday Rain” features lead vocals by drummer Taylor Hawkins, which struck me as a little weak when I saw it on the Glastonbury performance, but as a studio song it really works. He stepped aside from the kit to let none other than Sir Paul McCartney play drums instead. And why not?
I suppose I had better mention that Justin Timberlake features in some backing vocals on sixth track “Make It Right”. I don’t think this was a PR stunt, I don’t think any of this has been. The collaborations appear to have come about almost by accident and the band have clearly kept an open mind and a little of their tongues in their cheeks as the album has unfolded.
All in all, this is a very accomplished album and has been a chance for Dave and co. to push the boundaries of what is expected of them, raise a few eyebrows along the way maybe, but have a lot of fun doing it.