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Foo Fighters Mix The New and Old with Concrete and Gold

Dave’s finally gone classic rock imitator on us. Sort of.

A little over 22 years ago, Dave Grohl forever left Nirvana behind him with an album titled Foo Fighters, which forever changed the post-Nirvana rock world. Over the next two decades, Grohl put out album after album of some of the most iconic and genre defining rock of the post-grunge age. Along the way he carved out a unique spot in the history (and sound) of rock that was totally his (and his band’s) own. The Foo Fighters’ sound took its inspiration for its riffs from punk, its tunings from grunge, its rhythms from rock, its sensibilities from mid to late 80s pop punk, and its subject matter from everything from the mundane (“Big Me,” “White Limo”) to the profound (“Times Like These,” “Walk”), but never did The Foo Fighter’s music sound like any other band’s. Yes, there are similarities that exist between all rock bands of a certain persuasion, but for two decades when you heard a song by a band with certain rhythms, vocal deliveries, production, and riffs, you’d say, “that band sounds like The Foo Fighters.” Almost never did one say, “Hey, that Foo Fighters song sounds like Pink Floyd…or The Beatles…or Queen.” For better or worse, you can now with the advent of Concrete and Gold.

I can’t fault Dave Grohl for wanting to branch out, and try his hand at writing songs with the same passion, but different sound (with Greg Kurstin’s production help) and structure that referenced different genres of rock, as compared to his own catalogue. This new direction started with Sonic Highways and reaches its fruition on Concrete and Gold. There are moments here where The Foo Fighters sound like, well, The Foo Fighters, and they are the album’s strongest moments (“Run,” “La Dee Da,” and “Dirty Water,” which is the best of these strongest moments). There are moments where The Foo Fighters sound (ever so slightly, but ever so definitely) like their (one time) peers, Smashing Pumpkins, fittingly tinged with a little Brian May in the same song (“Arrows”). Then there are moments that can be attributed to nothing less than homages to the classic giants of rock. “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour),” is a straight up Paul McCartney White Album era “Blackbird” hommage. Title track “Concrete and Gold” is Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage/Eclipse/Comfortably Numb” on steroids, complete with lush choral vocals and seasoned with a little Neil Young and Crazy Horse riffage. “Sunday Rain” flows like a psychedelic take on a Paul McCartney and Wings cover with John Lennon-esque vocals, making it some weird Lennon/McCartney hybrid without sounding like a Beatles song. It’s the album’s most unique sounding song, even though it sounds like a host of different Lennon or McCartney jams.

These songs are certainly special sonic achievements by Grohl and his band, and if ever Grohl decided he wanted to do a tribute album, this is exactly the way I’d want him to do it. Thank The Dark Lord of Rock that he didn’t decide to do an album of classic rock covers. I can’t help but wish that he added a little more Foo Fighters songs on the album though. It’s easy, and a cop out, to say that Grohl has written “Times Like These” over and over again on subsequent albums (“These Days” and “Long Road to Ruin”), but each time he has revisited this type of classic Foo Fighters song he’s varied it up and still managed to raise the hair on your arms and back of your neck with the same ease that he did the first time you heard “Times Like These” or “Learning to Fly.” He might have revisited “Monkey Wrench” a little too closely with “Walk” and “No Way Back,” but he never failed to get your heart rate up and make you want to rock out in that rare way that only a Foo Fighters song can. Nothing on Concrete and Gold does either. Songs like “Arrows” and “Sunday Rain” get close, but are weighted down by the influence of their influences and therefore aren’t as fresh as they might at first seem. Their not pure Dave Grohl rock, and Dave Grohl rock is a rare thing.

Concrete and Gold has its moments. It actually has some really good ones. In the end though, the new album just makes me want to cue up “The Colour and The Shape” and “Wasting Light” and rock out to something original.

Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.

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