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October 19, 2017

Foo Fighters’ ‘Concrete and Gold’ misses the mark

(Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

“Concrete and Gold,” the new album by the Foo Fighters, sounds like a call for help and a plea for mercy to people who aren’t listening. The 11-song album fails to provide a flow from track to track, without managing to stand out from the band’s previous work.

The Foo Fighters was founded in 1994 by Dave Grohl, the band’s lead singer, guitarist and maestro. They have, for the past two decades, sought to produce a sound that is as eclectic as it is electric.

The tracks of this most recent album, however, are more non-linear than chronological – more cynical than sardonic. The vast majority of the songs include failed symbolism coupled with false symmetry.

“Concrete and Gold” is perhaps the most political album the band has produced. Tracks refer to a desire for escape and understanding the systemic problems within society, especially given the context of Donald Trump’s historic presidential win as a backdrop for the album’s core politics.

This theme of escapism can perhaps best be understood in the song “Sky Is A Neighborhood.” The notion of a civilization being inhabitable beyond our society’s current situation is something that garners sympathy from listeners such as myself. “Sky Is A Neighborhood” is also overtly political, with lines that read, “Mind is a battlefield/All hope is gone/Trouble to the right and left/Whose side you’re on?”

Indeed, it is a song that deals with allegiance, while also contextualizing the times we live in along with the leadership that rules above us. The Foo Fighters want to know where we lie, whereas this song conveys where they stand.

But perhaps, “Concrete and Gold” can be separated from Dave Grohl. Recently, The Foo Fighters have remained largely stagnant within their craft, adding very little creativity to songs that linger longer than necessary. It is largely noise, with wide sound frequencies. Their songs hit octaves as if the listener is on a roller coaster but bought tickets for a Ferris wheel.

In the last decade, Grohl has become an elder statesman in the rock and roll community. Sonic Highways, the eighth album of The Foo Fighters, was inspired by the culture of music in eight different cities, travelling to each one to record a different song.

The Foo Fighters’ sound, while classified as alternative rock of the post-grunge era, has become more mainstream. “Concrete and Gold” is rather like other albums of theirs, such as1997’s “The Colour and the Shape.” Songs off that album such as “Walking after You” and “Up in Arms” are similar to songs like “T-Shirt” and “Run” from their newest album. In fact, these songs can almost be confined to a melodic science:A slow, mellow buildup that explodes mid-track. Grohl screams into the microphone,with every the intensity of every instrument heard.

One can understand The Foo Fighters as Grohl’s second act, one that is post-Nirvana and post-Cobain. While The Foo Fighters became creative therapy of sorts for coping with past losses, songs like “Everlong” and “The Pretender” spoke to a generation that helped form a new genre.

The tragedy of “Concrete and Gold” is that it provides little variation on songs that The Foo Fighters wrote 20 years prior. Instead of adding to the style, “Concrete and Gold” fails to pay tribute to the band that helped bring grunge-style music into the 21st century.

Grohl’s appreciation for music speaks for itself – he has established himself not only as a leader of rock and roll but as a student of the craft. His collaborations include those with Iggy Pop and Paul McCartney, during both of which he played the drums.

Drummer Taylor Hawkins has said that this album might be the “weirdest” the band has produced. The album might be weird, but it fails to win over those who appreciate the Foo Fighters the most.

Isaac Simon can be reached at isimon@umass.edu.

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