Artist: Foo Fighters
Title: Concrete and Gold
Genre: Post-Grunge/Alternative Rock/Hard Rock
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Length: 48 min.
Producer: Greg Kurstin
Personnel: Dave Grohl (Lead Vocals, Guitars), Chris Shiflett (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals), Pat Smear (Rhythm Guitar), Nate Mendel (Bass), Taylor Hawkins (Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals on “Sunday Rain”), and Rami Jaffee (Keyboards)
Additional Personnel: Justin Timberlake (Backing Vocals on “Make It Right”), Shawn Stockman (Backing Vocals on “Concrete and Gold”), Inara George (Backing Vocals on “Dirty Water”), Alison Mosshart (Backing Vocals on “La Dee Da” and “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”), Dave Koz (Saxophone on “La Dee Da”), Paul McCartney (Drums on “Sunday Rain”), Taylor Greenwood (Backing Vocals on “T-Shirt”), Greg Sierpwoski (Optigan on “Happy Ever After”), Kinga Bacik (Cello on “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”), Thomas Lea (Viola on “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”), Ginny Luke (Violin on “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”), Jessy Greene (Violin on “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)” and “The Line,” Cello on “Concrete and Gold”), and Greg Kurstin (Synth Bass and Vibraphone on “The Line”)
The Foo Fighters’ newest record, Concrete and Gold, is disappointing.
I enjoy a lot of what the Foos are going for on this record. They’re trying, I think, to be two things at once: a band that is the best of what they have reliably had to offer over the past several years, which they have proved, in that time, in their live shows, Wasting Light, and the Saint Cecilia EP, though not so much Sonic Highways; but also a band that is branching out and trying new things, specifically mixing in the hard rock, psychedelic rock, and even a tad of the prog of the ’60s and ’70s. With that in mind, this album could have turned out to be an interesting juxtaposition or a terrible mess.
So what did we get? Well, a mix of the two, a mix of songs that are some of the best material the Foo Fighters have released in a while along with some material that is mediocre on the level of the majority of Sonic Highways and, sometimes, maybe even worse. The mediocre tracks are what make Concrete and Gold so disappointing, knowing the quality the Foos are able to churn out and have churned out in the past.
I’ll only be revisiting a few tracks here, specifically “Run,” “The Sky Is a Neighborhood,” “La Dee Da,” “Arrows,” and “Sunday Rain.” And maybe “Happy Ever After.” So about half of the album. And, to be honest, half is better than Sonic Highways, where I only revisit “Something from Nothing,” “Feast and the Famine,” and “Congregation,” plus maybe “I Am a River.”
Oh, and the band really wasted the cameos they had the opportunity to record. You have Justin Timberlake and you put him on backing vocals on “Make It Right”? Why? Same with Alison Mosshart – who kills it alongside Jack White in The Dead Weather – on “La Dee Da” and “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”? And you have freaking Paul McCartney in the studio and you assign him to only the drums, not even backing vocals, on “Sunday Rain”? What a shame! Oh, and, listen, why did you all have Taylor sing lead on “Sunday Rain”? Of all the songs to change lead singers for, Dave Grohl would have sounded amazing on that one!
I feel like the singles could have been better, too, if they would have focused more attention on them, like they’ve proven in the past they can, and cleaned up some of their weirdly inconsistent mixing choices, which I hadn’t even mentioned yet. Even so, despite my negatives, even if the album doesn’t measure up as a whole to the best half of the Foo Fighters discography, I have to go back to my point that this album contains some of the best Foos songs in years. And, admittedly, I enjoyed hearing their attempted juxtaposition of ’90s and early ’00s grunge and post-grunge with the hard, psychedelic, and prog rock of the ’60s and ’70s, without making this feel too out of date.
I love how Crash Thompson, The Rock Critic, put it in a metaphor which I’ve, here, modified a bit. The Foo Fighters on Concrete and Gold are Rocky at the beginning of Rocky III. There was a time when they were a scrappy, lean, mean, fighting machine, producing catchy, often angry, hit after hit. On Concrete and Gold, they’ve been set up to win too many times by their fan base and producers, and – as a result – they’re over-old, over-confident, and, frankly, out of shape. Here’s to hoping a Clubber Lang will come along to ring their bell, knock them flat, and get them motivated again.
I’m going to give Foo Fighters’ Concrete and Gold a 67%.