For more than two decades, the Foo Fighters have been the standard-bearers for straight-ahead rock. Other bands have been more critically acclaimed, and a few other bands have hit higher commercial peaks, but no band has quite matched Dave Grohl and company, in terms of carrying the torch for a genre some assume to be dying.
Although most often, and possibly incorrectly, labeled "alternative rock," the Foo Fighters are, for better or worse, relics of a bygone era. They were influenced by punk in the way that punk was influenced by Chuck Berry. They are simply the latest in an evolutionary line that puts a well-known rock and roll style in a more modern context.
With the band's ninth studio album, "Concrete and Gold," there was little chance that the Foo Fighters would reinvent its sound. Although the band has a much fuller sound today than in 1995, when Grohl was recording albums in true solo fashion, like a post-grunge McCartney or Prince, steps have been incremental. But there are some twists which should satisfy both longtime fans and listeners (myself included), who respect the band's craft but find themselves hoping for the occasional left turn.
The lead single, "Run," is perhaps the band's heaviest song ever. the Foos-to-Nirvana comparisons have always seemed a bit hackneyed and lazy, but the early parts of the track are reminiscent to a major Nirvana influence, Mudhoney. Grohl has never had Kurt Cobain's flair for emotion, but his rock howl, as is typically the case, holds up well over the course of songs, which demand competence vocally rather than virtuosity.
"The Sky is a Neighborhood," the second single from "Concrete and Gold," has a density to it which is unprecedented in the band's catalog. The songwriting and the band's playing, as typically is the case, is workmanlike, but the sheer force of 2017 technology makes it a unique part of their discography.
The album's third single, "The Line," unfortunately, doesn't quite match the experimentation of the previous two tracks. It's far from a bad song and includes some nice vocal melodies, but it's the point in the album's promotional cycle that first suggests listeners should expect nothing more and nothing less than a typical Foo Fighters album.
Indeed, "Concrete and Gold" is full of '70s-inspired arena rock, mixed with slightly more modern influences. "Make It Right" imagines if Faces had come a few years after the Sex Pistols, rather than a few years before.
"La Dee Da" has the hallmarks of vintage Husker Du, while "Dirty Water" sounds like early-Foo Fighters (think "Big Me").
Ironically, the only song on the album that isn't particularly exciting in some way is "Happy Ever After," a song which most obviously differs from the typical Foo Fighters sound. The song tries to be pretty and acoustic, and it doesn't suit the band's adequacy as well as the songs which depend on the band's passion.
Few have discussed Grohl's guitar playing in the same way that Jack White's draws attention. But that has never been their cache. The Foo Fighters are a rock-solid band that cares about being a rock-solid rock band, and not much more.
This is a fine album, one which could entice new listeners shockingly well for a band further into existence than the Rolling Stones when the band released "Start Me Up." It isn't creative enough to elevate to classic status, nor is it quite the ball of energy to make a lack of creativity unnoticed, but the Foo Fighters likely don't care about making "Revolver." The band seems content to make a bunch of "Back in Black"s, and the world needs those too.