Concrete and Gold is the ninth studio album by U.S rockers, Foo Fighters. The album is the first album to recognize keyboardist Rami Jaffee as a full time member of the band, and is the first album since 2005’s In Your Honor to feature drummer Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals for a song. The album was announced quite surprisingly, with the release of their first single, Run. Another single, The Sky is a Neighborhood, was also released before the album release.
The original concept for the Concrete and Gold record was to record it in front of a live audience in California, however, Dave Grohl scrapped the idea after finding out this had already been done by PJ Harvey. After a 12 month self imposed exile from music while rehabbing his broken leg suffered on tour to support their previous album, Sonic Highways, Grohl started writing what would become songs for the Concrete and Gold project after just six months, with Run being the first song he wrote (kind of ironic, considering he was rehabbing a broken leg). Grohl wrote most of the album along side music producer Greg Kurstin, who has worked very recently with pop acts like Adele, Sia and Kelly Clarkson. Kurstin also performs in the indie pop group, The Birds and the Bees, whom Grohl has been a fan of for a few years.
The album has been described by Grohl himself as “Motörhead’s version of Sgt. Pepper”, and this comparison shows throughout the album. The album has the hard rock feels of their older albums, with songs like Run, Dirty Water and The Line all resembling Foo Fighters of the past years. Some of the songs that also feature have very pop-driven sensibilities, and when mixed with Foo Fighter’s style, give us some quality songs. There are definitely influences from the Sonic Highways sessions on show as well, with the album also giving off a very heavy blues vibe. Sunday Rain and The Sky is a Neighborhood are prime examples of the bluesy influences.
The album starts off with a short “introductory song” called T-Shirt, which runs for about a minute and a half, and builds us straight into Run. T-Shirt is easily the best introduction to how this album will sound, with the bluesy introduction, that rips straight into a big, heavy, traditional Foo Fighters sound. As the song ends, it drops back to the bluesy sound we got at the start of the song, then drives us straight into the intro for Run. Run itself, at first, was a tough pill to swallow for me. The drastic changes in genre in the song were a bit much. But over time, I’ve come to love and appreciate the way Grohl can go between his aggressive vocals and his regular singing voice. Also, if you haven’t seen the video for this song, it will be linked below. It’s a strange one, but it’s also fantastic.
After Run, we move into Make It Right, which feels like a 70’s throwback track. From the production of the track, to the sound of the instruments, it reeks of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin influences. The song is also the first to feature a guest, with Justin Timberlake on harmonies and back up vocals. In saying all that though, it also feels uniquely Foo Fighters. The Sky is a Neighborhood is next up, and for me, this is the song on the album that is the true stand out. It’s slow, methodical, and is probably the album highlight for me. It’s bizarre to say, because outside of the context of the album, I wasn’t a fan when I first heard it. But after having a few runthroughs with the record, and embracing the style of the album, this is quite easily the best track on the whole album. The song also features vocals from Alison Mosshart, a member of the famed supergroup, The Dead Weather.
La Dee Da continues the trend of the 70’s vibe, with a psychedelic trip down the path of “if Foo Fighters went to the 70’s”. Grohl brings the screams, while the instrumentation throws us into a time loop of dirty, filthy 70’s rock. Another fantastic example of the Foo’s taking something old and making it new again. And once again, Alison Mosshart features on the track, as does Dave Koz on saxophone. Next, Dirty Water is up, and boy, it is an interesting track. Everything that has been laid before us has been bluesy and heavy. But Dirty Water flips everything on it’s head, and delivers a beautiful song, with the perfect mix of acoustic and electric sounds, with a gorgeous harmony during the chorus. The first half of the song sound sounds like it was made for a Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It’s probably the most honest description I can provide for you. Around the halfway mark of the song, it moves back to the traditional Foo’s sound, and for the fourth straight song, features another guest vocalist in Inara George, who is the other half of the producer’s musical project, The Birds and the Bees.
The back half of the album starts with Arrows, which when you look back at the bands previous non-single album songs, feels like a traditional Foo Fighters track. It feels like something off In Your Honor, or Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. I feel like this could easily be a live staple if they choose to play in on tour. Happy Ever After (Zero Hour) is up next, and this is the song you can hear the late Beatles influences. The song is a fantastic acoustic pop song, with Grohl showing that while he can go hard, he can tone it down for a minute. I fully expect this to be integrated into their acoustic sets moving forward.
Next, is Sunday Rain, which is the song Dave steps back from vocals, and let’s Taylor Hawkins do all the work. And it is a cracking track. The song is suited 100% to Taylor’s way of singing, and this is another song I totally expect to be rotated into the bands live sets. While the album has some Beatles influences on it, this is the only song on the record to feature and ACTUAL Beatle, with Paul McCartney relieving Hawkins on the drums. After Sunday Rain, we have The Line, which was released a few days before the album to hype everyone for the record. The Line is a pretty good song, with old school Foo’s on full display here. This feels like a throw back all the way to the days of The Colour and the Shape. An absolute belter on a record of consistently good songs.
The album closes on the title track, Concrete and Gold. The song is unique, as it features Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men doing harmonic vocals for the song. A key thing to note about this song is that they actually took Stockman vocal track, and layered it about 40 times to give the choral sound that shows in the track. Every single voice you hear on the harmony during the chorus is just one man. And that to me, is impressive. As for the song, it’s a slow epic, that slowly builds to the outro. An absolute beauty.
Overall, Foo Fighters have done it again. Another solid record in the books of their 20 year career, and if they continue making quality albums like this, while being able to reinvent their sound, they could easily keep making better records for the next 20 years.
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