The Foo Fighters told us a huge lie, and it was awesome. Alt-rock fans were under the impression the band was taking a well-earned hiatus after releasing “Sonic Highways” in November 2014 and touring for nearly all the following year.
Truth is, they’ve been recruiting and recording for the better part of six months, and the sound that came out of EastWest Studios is unlike anything the Foos have ever created.
Frontman Dave Grohl has made a habit of penning handwritten letters to the fans for any major announcements. His message from this past June was straightforward: “We just spent the last six months secretly making a gigantic new Foo Fighters album with our friend/genius/mastermind Greg Kurstin that will undoubtedly fry stereos from here to Fukuoka. Start saving your speaker money now. Sorry. It’s big.”
Their triumphant ninth LP, released on Friday, Sep. 15, is the ultimate testament to the Foos’ timeless power. “Concrete and Gold” has it all: thunderous crescendos, solemn acoustic sections, waves of burgeoning metal and enough harmonies to fill a Roman Catholic choir.
The undisputed champion here is “Run,” a five-minute punk-metal rager that has “mosh pit” written all over it, but there’s more than enough awesomeness to go around. The second single, “The Sky Is A Neighborhood” is a boisterous, space-trekking stadium anthem, while “La Dee Da” serves up a good, old-fashioned screamfest. The title track, wisely saved until the end, is a glorious resolution with some noticeable Floydian shades.
Even for Foo Fighters, a sound this big requires some help. Back in June, Grohl confirmed longtime band keyboardist and former Wallflowers member Rami Jaffee as an official Foo Fighter, bringing the band to a six-man stable. Dave and Rami are joined by guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, drummer Taylor Hawkins and bassist Nate Mendel.
The record boasts a few star-studded collaborations, too. Justin Timberlake asked very nicely and got a vocal spot on “Make It Right.”
Alison Mosshart from The Kills lends her lusty voice to “The Sky Is A Neighborhood” and “La Dee Da,” while Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men works wonders on the chorus of the title track. Smooth jazz master Dave Koz makes an appearance, and some guy named Paul McCartney drums on “Sunday Rain.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Greg Kurstin, the mastermind producer behind Adele’s “25” and Sia’s “This Is Acting,” helps Grohl direct traffic (Dave explains everything in a funny animated short on the Foos’ website)
Laced within the lyrics, listeners find why the Foos’ music remains relevant twenty-two years removed from the original album (which Grohl concocted virtually all by himself). “Wake up/Run for your life with me,” Dave shouts on the lead single, an urgent call to live life as you envision it and leave predetermined realities behind. The former Nirvana drummer waxes poetic on “Dirty Water” as he sings to some unnamed higher power: “I’m a natural disaster/You’re the morning after all my storms.”
On the third unstoppable single, “The Line,” the Foos look for hope in a world wrecked by unstable politics. “Heart’s gone cold/Brush ran dry/Satellite searching for a sign of life.” “Concrete and Gold” is, all at once, a classic-rock tribute and a deafening shot of defiance. The Foos fight mid-career drudgery with everything they’ve got, and in the end, everyone wins.
With any other band, this kind of arrangement might come off as contrived, but Foo Fighters has never suffered from a lack of passion; their love for their craft rings true on every chord and every word. One could imagine Grohl and company as music fans first, musicians second.
The band’s going back on the road to celebrate and everyone’s invited, including twenty-plus other bands at CAL JAM 17, a festival of the Foos’ own design at San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Regional Park. They’ll take the stage alongside Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant, Japandroids, The Kills and others for the day-long mega-party on Oct. 7. It’ll also be the first chance for U.S. fans to hear the full majesty of “Concrete and Gold” live.
“We throw one hell of a party, you know… It’s gonna go off,” Grohl wrote. So true, Dave, but with this album, it already has.