The Foo Fighters’ much anticipated album Sonic Highways was released this week, and it gives fans exactly what they want. The album is composed of eight tracks, each inspired by and recorded in a different cities as well as reflecting their respective music scenes. This is a creative concept that could be well suited for The Foo Fighters, as they could be considered a true American 90’s band. Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Washington DC, New Orleans, Seattle and Chicago covers a lot of the country, and the concept behind this record could slightly pull the band away from just being a Seattle band (although now based in LA, original sound coming from Seattle), and define them as a group representing our country’s rock music in its entirety.
Although this all seems like a great idea, maybe it is an ambition better suited for another band. Musically, these songs do not seem to represent the scenes that they claim – or at least the scenes I see out of these cities. I don’t hear any country or folk-twang for Nashville, big band charts or jazz horns for New Orleans, or Chicago blues, and honestly the group even moves away from classic 90’s Seattle grunge. There are no real defining or sudden musical characteristics that change throughout these songs, or any that show a representation of something that isn’t Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters are known for their sound, a sound that hasn’t changed a whole lot in ten years. High treble attack guitars, intense, driving and talented drum patterns and lyrics about a man trying to find his way when he’s fallen off his path. This is, has been, and always will be The Foo Fighters.
This is not to say that this is a bad album, but just one that fails to live up to its ambitions. I see this work as another installment of Dave Grohl’s material, not necessarily great but just average Foo Fighters. The press and build up of this cross-country inspiration gave the record a hype that it would be something different and active to listen to, but if it didn’t physically say that Gary Clark Jr. was featured on this album I probably would have missed it entirely. The featured artists on this album molded to sound more like The Foo Fighters as opposed to bringing new to the table and giving a taste of where they are from.
The album opens with “Something From Nothing”, a track supposedly representing the Chicago music scene. This is the most promising song on the album, fitting along closest with previously big hits from the band like “Rope” and “These Days”. I have no doubts as to why the band chose to make this their radio single. After that, the organization of the tracks leaves the listener with little to be surprised about. “Congregation” and “What Do I Do?/As God As My Witness” sound extremely similar and the rest of the tracks flat line with a orchestra backed ballad “I Am A River” pulling the album together with lost energy. The band has a lot to give, we know that, but they didn’t bring anything new to the table this time.
Dave Grohl is a man who expected to be a drummer in a rock band for the rest of his life, but when things changed with the passing of Kurt Cobain, he turned his anger and grief in to a life-fulfilling career and outstanding musical accomplishments. If anyone knows how to take inspiration to its fullest, it’s Dave Grohl, but perhaps he’s running out of steam. Or maybe he’s just a one hit wonder in disguise, always coming back to the same grind.
Key Tracks: Something From Nothing, The Feast and The Famine
RIYL: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Kings of Leon