Creatively, 2017 has been far from the land of milk and honey for major acts, with Lorde, Haim, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem and Queens of the Stone Age delivering albums falling somewhere between lacklustre and divisive to say the least. For the most part rock n roll has been on the ropes in recent times with many of its big hitters seemingly devoid of creative spark. In the face of the hip-hop revolution, all they have to offer feels like old hat. And that’s exactly the case with Foo Fighters’ ‘Concrete and Gold’. It feels like old hat, and in places old Foghat.
The mission statement behind this release was to create a record that imagined what Moterhead’s Sgt. Pepper’s would sound like. The results are a smorgasbord of cascading melodies and trashing riffs. To achieve this alternative rock reality, Foo Fighters brought in award-winning pop guru Greg Kurstin (Adele, Lilly Allen, Tegan and Sara, Sia), to polish the daydream.
On paper, it seems like an unnatural fit, without taking into consideration the creative goal. And for Kurstin’s part, he has made Foo Fighters sound bigger and lusher than ever before with swaths of instrumentation and harmony vocals, but underneath all the hocus pocus the arrangements and source material just aren’t strong enough.
T Shirt sets sail as a brisk acoustic number with a Joaquin McWhinney style refrain, before a tidal wave of guitars and harmony vocals. At only 1:22 it sets out exactly what is to unfurl across the other 10 tracks: big melodies and big guitars with low yields. Run’s trashing vortex of guitars is marred by childish wining distorted vocals. Likewise, La Dee Da is also let down by more irritating distorted screaming, which is a pity because underneath it there is a much better song trying to exist.
Dave Grohl has always been capable balladeer and the opening moments of Dirty Water showcase this ability with a Why So Sad era Manic Street Preachers-esque jangly, flittering bossa nova shuffle. This is showcased again later on the jaunty White Album era Beatles-esque Happy Ever After (Zero Hour).
McCartney was even drafted in to play drums on Summer Rain, on which Taylor Hawkins steals Dave Grohl’s thunder with the best vocal performance on the album, his timber best suited to the ’70s rock stylings of the album. Other notable guest appearances include Justin Timberlake on Make It Right, a cock rock number that could easily have been lifted off of the Dazed and Confused soundtrack. Weirder still Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men fame makes a guest appearance on the album’s closing titular track, for which Pink Floyd will more than likely receive a few quid for.
Foo Fighters’ endless touring will no doubt go on with people continuing to lose their shit to Monkey Wrench and Everlong with glee. And ‘Concrete and Gold’ will become just another Foo Fighters album, that exists in the same way Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney albums exist today, to justify the endless tours’ existence until the next album is required. Then the majority of these songs will be put away never to be heard again.