The Foo Fighters’ ninth studio album, “Concrete and Gold,” is the continuation of the bands slow evolution from their straightforward alt/rock anthems to more thoughtful and expansive songs; integrating influences ranging from modern post-rock to classic psychedelic rock. They may not be ready to get cataloged under “progressive rock”, but on “Concrete and Gold” they demonstrate a maturity and complexity that may surprise many listeners who are only familiar with the band’s radio hits.
The Foo Fighters have always been a standout among the grunge bands that survived the 90s. Dave Grohl, as the primary songwriter of the band, was probably the best pop songwriter of his peers. While Chris Cornell wrote philosophical lyrics, and Eddie Vedder–we’re still not sure what Eddie Vedder was even saying half the time; Dave Grohl knew how to weave pop sensibilities into heavy grungy rock and there’s an interesting dichotomy to many of his songs.
For a perfect example, look no further than one of their biggest hits, “Monkey Wrench”. It’s a punk rock song with a pop hook. The chorus is immensely catchy while the bridge is mostly shouted. When you break it down, many of the elements are quite disparate, especially for a chart topping hit; but as a whole, you probably never even really noticed it. As the band matured, so did the songwriting, and while nothing on “Concrete and Gold” quite reaches the height of songs like “Everlong” in terms of emotional, relatable pop-rock; this is the apex, so far, of musical depth and complexity for the Foo Fighters.
Sonically, the album dabbles in psychedelia, brushes up against prog once or twice, has a brief flirtation with hardcore, and settles somewhere between The Beatles and the Foo Fighters of old. Perhaps the strongest song is “Run”, which opens with some warble-y guitars before dropping into a verse which is screamed over an off kilter minor key riff and finally settles into an anthemic chorus. “Run” provides the pieces for the rest of the album, but none of the other songs execute it quite as well. Songs like “Make it Right” and “La Dee Da” have the big nasty grooves, while “The Sky is a Neighborhood” and “Happy Ever After” bring echoes of late era Beatles and the psychedelic rock of the 60s. There are some interesting aspects to other songs, like “Dirty Water,” which starts with a flamenco-esque acoustic guitar before building up to a heavy groove halfway through.
Lyrically, I hear a bit of Grohl’s melancholy over the many deaths among his peers and in his community. In “Run”, he sings “In another perfect life/In another perfect light/We run,” while on “The Sky is a Neighborhood” he expands on Carl Sagan’s “We are made of star stuff” idea, flipping it around imagining all of the particles of everyone who’s lived and died floating around up in the sky. “Heaven is a big band now” he sings, “Keep it down/Got to get to sleep somehow.”
As the album moves towards its conclusion, though, it runs out of steam, and the last few songs don’t quite live up to heights reached in the beginning; either in terms of pure songwriting or complexity. If you liked the Foo Fighters in the early 2000s but your tastes have matured since then, this is the album where the band shows that they grew up, too. Or if you’re just a fan of interesting music that’s not necessarily prog or doesn’t fit neatly into a single label, there’s a lot to love on “Concrete and Gold.”
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