Artist – Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl – Vocals/Guitar
Chris Shiflett – Guitar
Pat Smear – Guitar
Nate Mendel – Bass
Rami Jaffee – Keyboards/Piano
Taylor Hawkins – Drums
Producer – Greg Kurstin
Release Date – February 5th 2021
Label – RCA
When you’re 10 albums deep into a career as one of the most successful rock bands on the planet, how do you keep things fresh? That’s the question most bands don’t have to answer these days as reaching double figures for full length releases seems to be an art form in itself! Dave Grohl and his fellow Foos make their stab here and for the most part it can be classed as a success.
Anyone approaching this record looking for the huge thundering riffs and shouty snarling vocals of their early releases will be unfortunately disappointed. And there lies this bands issue – often criticised for perhaps not being adventurous enough and wheeling out the same album every few years, when they do try and change the formula a bit it can sound odd on first listen.
Take lead-off single ‘Shame Shame’ for example. Definitely not what I would have selected for the first taste of the record (the more traditional Foos esque sound of ‘Waiting On A War’ would have got my nod), on first listen it’s underwhelming. As part of the album it works a whole lot better, its more subdued, sophisticated style doesn’t jar as much when flanked by other songs that are also looking to do something a little different.
The band haven’t suddenly gone dance or added any rapping sections to their material but they are definitely trying to expand on their regular formula. The album is slickly produced by Greg Kurstin and gives the whole thing a pop sheen, which helps make a track like opener ‘Making A Fire’ the brightest, shiniest sounding thing they’ve ever recorded. You can hear various production touches across the record, alongside Rami Jaffee’s increased presence on keyboards, fleshing out the songs and giving them their fullest sound yet.
One of the most interesting aspects of the album is the use of backing vocalists/group vocals across many of the tracks. It really does give things a new feel and is a welcome element, one I can see being a plus point when they return to the live stage (hopefully this year). This, alongside snatches of orchestration and the more prominent keyboards are all welcome additions. The attempt at funkiness on a couple of tracks and some half hearted attempts at slotting in some guitar solos are not such a hit to these ears.
Best song on here is ‘Waiting On A War’ which has a classic Foos anthem feel (see ‘Times Like These’) before exploding with some real rock passion towards the songs end – it’s that explosive release that you get from a great Foos’ song that is missing a little on the album as a whole. There are moments that do remind you that they can get the blood pumping and raise the tempo, ‘No Son Of Mine’ being the heaviest track on the album with Dave Grohl’s best vocal performance almost James Hetfield (Metallica) esque in it’s delivery.
A special mention must be made to the quality of Taylor Hawkin’s drumming, which is tremendous throughout and can often be overlooked when your band contains one of the best drummers in the world standing centre stage. He adds some great fills and solid backing that really power along a lot of the tracks. Also, the track ‘Chasing Birds’ is Dave Grohl embracing his Beatles/John Lennon influence most overtly since probably ‘Marigold’, all the way back in 1993 on the b-side to Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ single. It’s a style that suits him and something I could go for more of (maybe on a solo album).
Overall I think this has enough on it to keep Foo Fighters fans happy and if you are willing to embrace their attempt to grow and add a few new things then it’s a really good listen, certainly better than the previous two full lengths. The chances of them ever releasing something that rivals the incredible The Colour And The Shape (1997) definitely feel to be slipping away but being able to produce a strong set of songs, that are an easy listen, is a strength in itself. Approach this expecting a quality (but not life changing) listen and you won’t be disappointed.
1. Making A Fire – 8/10
2. Shame Shame – 7/10
3. Cloudspotter – 6/10
4. Waiting On A War – 9/10
5. Medicine At Midnight – 6.5/10
6. No Son Of Mine – 8/10
7. Holding Poison – 6/10
8. Chasing Birds – 7/10
9. Love Dies Young – 6/10
Overall – 7/10