Album of the Week: Foo Fighters, 'Concrete and Gold'

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Foo Fighters, 'Concrete and Gold'
Foo Fighters, 'Concrete and Gold' (RCA Records)
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Concrete and Gold is the ninth studio album from the Foo Fighters, and at this point, there's not a lot I can say you probably don't already know — the band's stated ambition was to imagine Motörhead making Sgt. Pepper, Slayer performing Pet Sounds, and you get that level of contrast not just between songs, but within them — taking the Pixies / Nirvana loud-quiet-loud-quiet-loud as far as possible, with a little more emphasis on harmonies and electronics, but for at least the first half of the album, it's mostly more of the kind of catchy riffage we've come to expect from the Foo Fighters for more than 20 years now. And it works. With Dave's voice, Taylor's drums, and Dave, Chris, Pat and Nate piling on guitars, the Foos are the most dependable rock band of the 21st century.

The other story has been about the guests on the record — some that the Foos met while they barbecued in the recording-studio parking lot — including Justin Timberlake, Alison Mosshart, and Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman on vox, and Sir Paul McCartney not singing, but playing drums (despite the fact that the band's Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins might be two of the best drummers on the planet!). The album was produced by The Bird and the Bee's Greg Kurstin, who has worked with artists like Sia, Adele and Beck over the past few years. Kurstin adds a bit of sheen to the rock without tempering the heavy riffs and screams that contrast the more harmonious moments.

There was, however, an opportunity to push new sounds to the fore. Concrete and Gold is filled with the kind of Foo Fighters songs we've come to expect (and let's not forget — they are masters at crafting rock radio hits like "The Sky is a Neighborhood" and "Run"), but there are two tunes that succeed at breaking out of the mold, with "Sunday Rain" featuring not just McCartney on drums but scoring with a vibe that is reminiscent of Macca's "Let Me Roll It" or even his old bandmate John's bluesier "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" or "Cold Turkey." The album then ends on the title track, which begins with a weary-sounding Grohl double-tracked like '70s Bowie before moving to a Floyd-ian chorus straight from the Dark Side of the Foos. It's a welcome change to hear the band stretch like this, but by burying them at the end of the album and not pushing either as videos to roll out for singles, it's like the band hesitated about messing too much with the formula that's served them well now for 20 years.

By leading with the solid and dependable sounds of the Foo Fighters that we've come to both crave and expect, Concrete and Gold is ultimately like a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly day: it's musically comfortable, which might sound like a putdown, but sometimes when the seasons change, it's nice to reach for something that you know is gonna make you feel good. And while the new sounds and influences are cool new additions to the Foo Fighters' musical vocabulary, it's untimely the ingredients we've come to expect that bring us back.

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Foo Fighters - Official Site

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