Foo Fighters

Sonic Highways

Written by: PP on 27/11/2014 20:14:04

Nobody expected Foo Fighters to release another masterpiece more than a decade after "The Colour And The Shape", "There Is Nothing Left To Lose" and to an extent "One By One", yet they did just that three years ago with "Wasting Light". An album that was recorded in a garage and quickly became infamous for Dave Grohl's insightful statements about being a recording artist within the rock spectrum ("all that matters is what goes on in here (head) and in here (heart)", he responded to questions about not using a major studio instead), it was characterized by its raw passion and a turn towards the heavier material from the early Foo Fighters albums. Yes, the songs were still anthemic and perfectly representative of the term 'alternative rock' in all their anthemic glory, but they had a certain drive, a certain groove to them that made them stand far above the rest of their peers in the genre that year. Fast-forward three years and we're here with their eighth album "Sonic Highways", and probably never has there been bigger expectations for a Foo Fighters album than this one.

So, how did they do? All things considered, rather well, although it's not likely you'll find this among your favorite Foo Fighters releases overall. Sound wise, it's a nod back towards their late 90s material (think "Learn To Fly" style) with generally softer and more melodic songwriting where the guitars aren't quite as crunchy nor as hard-hitting than on "Wasting Light". But at the same time, the band has notched up songwriting ambition, and multiple songs approach rock opera in their grandeur and complexity, not to even mention the larger-than-life solos that are embedded within. With just nine songs spreading across 42 minutes, the songs hover around the five-minute mark each, opting for more challenging progressive structures than we are used to hearing from the band. The centerpiece of this action is surely "What Did I Do?/God As My Witness" double-song that reaches deep down into Dave Grohl's soul as a musician and results into some of the most dramatic and most epic soundscapes this band has written yet. Stadium sized doesn't even begin to explain it. Similarly, "In The Clear" goes on for a softer and arguably too poppy approach, bringing in orchestral elements and softening on the distortion for a fairly nondescript chorus melody that blends in too well within the P3 radio offering here in Denmark (and no, that's not a compliment, for the non-Danes reading this).

Much has been said about the "Holy Diver" (Dio) riff rip off on opener "Something From Nothing", but the song is otherwise a good example of Grohl sounding like a rock star with his rowdy performance, and it's certainly better than the aimless floating around happening on "Subterranean" that honestly feels like a Foo Fighters ballad on autopilot. The seven minute "I Am A River" that closes the album almost sounds like Coldplay, and I don't think I'm alone here suggesting that's not what Foo Fighters are all about. Instead, the rougher and more distorted "The Feast And The Famine" is the kind of song the band should be writing more consistently on this album.

In the end, "Sonic Highways" is a mix of good Foo Fighters tracks and ones that probably shouldn't have been included on this record. It's favourably balanced towards the former group, but putting this album side-by-side with "Wasting Light" (let alone their classic material) it is obvious that it doesn't stand comparison very well. Still, this is supposed to be the benchmark release for alternative rock in 2014, so a more critical look is required than usual. Verdict: first half is excellent, second half does not impress.

Download: Congregation, What Did I Do?/God As My Witness
For the fans of: Them Crooked Vultures, Stone Temple Pilots, Queens Of The Stone Age, Incubus, Filter, Smashing Pumpkins
Listen: Facebook

Release date 10.11.2014
Roswell / RCA

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