Foo Fighters’ ‘Concrete And Gold’ Shows There Are Still Superheroes

Foo Fighters’ previous album, ‘Sonic Highways’ was released in 2014, so fans and critics alike have been awaiting ‘Concrete And Gold’ with bated breath and perhaps a little trepidation. Their patience has been rewarded, with an album which front man Dave Grohl has described as, “Motörhead’s version of Sergeant Pepper”.

Opening track, ‘T-Shirt’ opens with Grohl’s soft sparse vocals, both quiet and contemplative, leading us to believe we need to turn the volume up until about 30 seconds into the track. It’d be an error to do so however, as BOOM the track quickly ascends into a HUGE Queen-like anthem…before quietly dropping into second track, ‘Run’, so quickly it’s almost impossible to discern the start and end point of each song. ‘Run’ was released in June, accompanied by an epic video directed by Grohl himself. It featured the band dressed as elderly men playing to an audience in a church. Like ‘T-Shirt’ this song is one of contrasts, opening quietly and then paring back to powerful, emotive, even gutteral screams, before returning to the somewhat more gentler, and imploring,

Before the time runs out
There’s somewhere to run
Wake up
Run for your life with me
Wake up
Run for your life with me

Track three, ‘Make It Right’, features Justin Timberlake on backing vocals, but you’d never know unless you were told (he sings the “la la las”). The track feels like it’s somewhere between ELO and The Beatles, and the guitars and drums for which Foo Fighters are best known are among their best.

Fourth song in is the standout, ‘The Sky Is A Neighborhood’, which we’ve featured before on here. It’s classic Foo Fighters, and is raw, stripped back, and contemplative, talking about how we’re not alone, we’re just a part of a universal neighbourhood, and maybe we should just remember the neighbours. Grohl described the track as the biggest thing sonically they’d ever done, and said:

“One night I was lying out looking up at stars, just imagining all of these stars as places that have life on them as well, and I decided that the sky is a neighborhood, that we need to keep our shit together in order to survive in this universe full of life. But I had no music yet. I just had the title. So everyday I would walk around, kind of humming this thing in my head.”

‘La Dee Da’ might well be an autobiographical track for Grohl, mentioning three UK bands who were influential to him before he joined Nirvana – Whitehouse, Death In June, and Psychic TV. It also mentions cult leader Jim Jones, with Grohl telling NME,

“As a teenager, I was obsessed with Charlie Manson and Jim Jones. I was in a band called Dain Bramage, and I wanted to make a banner to place behind us so I did a graph drawing of Jim Jones on this white sheet. When I went to take it off the wall, the paint had gone through so for about seven years I had this huge painting of Jim Jones above my bed.”

The track is full of angst and anger, the heavy reverb a reflection of Grohl’s spat out lyrics. The track features Alison Mossheart, front woman for The Kills, on backing vocals. Mossheart also sang on ‘The Sky Is A Neighborhood’.

‘Dirty Water’, the 6th track on the album, is the second stand out song, and is in lots of ways a stark contrast to many of the other songs, with its laid back, almost Beach Boys, even ELO style harmonies. Whereas the other tracks are mostly full on rock anthems, this is a laid-back, pop, So-Cal feel song. About halfway through however it’s as if the band can’t just leave it at that – they turn the power up to 11 and ‘Dirty Water’ becomes a Foo Fighters track. There’s some really nice lyrics as well, such as:

You’re my sea of poison flowers
Standing in the sun, row by row
I’ve been drinking dirty water
The taste of sweet revenge, best served cold
All we know

‘Arrows’ builds up slowly and then BOOM hits us with that fierce drums and guitars combination that fans know all too well. If there’s one criticism of this album it’s that the quiet moments in between the hard-hitting rock tracks don’t quite feel long enough. But it’s a tiny criticism and in the scheme of things doesn’t take much away from the album at all.

‘Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)’ sounds like a jolly, happy song, again with a Beatles-esque feel. But it’s a bitter-sweet track, the lyrics sad and contemplative:

There ain’t no superheroes now
There ain’t no superheroes, they’re underground
Happy ever after
Counting down to zero hour

The violin of Jessy Greene, and organ and harmonium of Rami Jaffee are a nice touch, adding to the overall 60s feel of this track; in fact, there’s a lot of unexpected instrumentation throughout the album, a glorious showcase of the immense talent of the band.

‘Sunday Rain’ opens like ‘Stairway To Heaven’ but otherwise is all ‘Sergeant Pepper’, even down to the addition of Paul McCartney, who plays drums on the track. Grohl takes a break from lead vocals, letting Taylor Hawkins do the honours, the only song on the album not to feature Grohl up front.

‘The Line’ was dropped recently as a single, and Grohl describes it as,

“a search for hope in this day and age where you feel as if you’re fighting for your life with every passing moment, and everything is on the line.”

It’s not quite so bad as all that however, the track is upbeat and catchy, and the lyrics are memorable and very clever, with double endentres such as “a dirty black cloud coming out of the blue”, symbolising a gloomy future on the horizon and it occurring suddenly and unexpectedly (out of the blue).

The title track is the last on the album and it’s a huge anthem with glorious instrumentation including lots of cymbals, high hats, mellotron, and synths – there’s even a cello, played by Jessy Greene. It’s huge and it’s grand, and it’s a fitting end to the album.
In conclusion, ‘Concrete And Gold’ has been worth the wait. It’s all that fans could wish for, and as it says on the packaging, certainly tested the limits of my speakers.
‘Concrete and Gold’ was written and performed by Foo Fighters, produced by Greg Kurstin and Foo Fighters, and mixed by Darrell Thorp. The album is available here on Columbia Records. Foo Fighters will also play a sold-out performance at London’s O2 Arena on 19th September.
Check out ‘The Making Of Concrete And Gold’ where Dave Grohl explains how they came to have Greg Kurstin produce the album:

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About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email lisa@essentiallypop.com

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