by Blaine Payer ’18
The Foo Fighters have managed, unlike many of their rock and roll counterparts, to not only stay relevant through a career lasting over 20 years, but also to get better and better with age. With its innovative production styles, poetic lyrics, slew of guest stars, and all of the pure rock and roll that all Foo Fighter fans know and love, Concrete and Gold is an impressive effort from a band that appears to have no intentions of slowing down any time soon.
Front man and rock legend Dave Grohl announced late last year that the band would be taking a break from touring and spending most of 2017 working on a new record. By April, they had begun playing previously unheard songs at live festival shows, often with the support of various friends-turned-guest stars like Alison Momson, the lead singer of the alternative rock group The Kills.
The first single off the album, “Run,” was released on June 1 and garnered a good deal of radio time right off the bat. Jeremy Gordon of Spin said the unique sound of the record made it “meat-and-potatoes hard rock…a classic Foo Fighters song.”
“It’s clear these songs that we have are going from Foo Fighter’s songs to something bigger than we’ve ever done before in our entire lives,” says Grohl, the former drummer for Nirvana, in a mini-documentary about how the band’s ninth studio record came to be. The musical style is reminiscent of the band’s earlier records, like 2011’s Wasting Light and 2007’s multi-platinum hit Echoes, Silence, Patience, Grace, with its powerful and driving drum tracks to Grohl’s trademark growls and howls.
Standout tracks like “The Sky is a Neighborhood” and “Make it Right” exemplify this growth, containing complex layers of sounds, gospel choirs singing backup in a blues/rock song, and some of the catchiest hard rock riffs of the year. The explanation for the new, more sophisticated sound, aside from the influence of Grohl’s insatiable creative appetite for innovation and mastering his craft, can be found in producer Greg Kurstin.
With credits that include names like Sia and Adele, Kurstin began taking the music industry by storm in 2011 for his work on the Kelly Clarkson single “Stronger,” which gained him his first number one song on the US Billboard charts and established him as an accomplished pop producer. While the rest of the Foo Fighters were skeptical about Kurstin’s inclusion, Grohl insisted that he was key to elevating the album to heights that the band had never before reached.
Rolling Stone calls it the group’s “most balanced record…both musically and emotionally,” citing its new production style and masterful use of guest musicians as two of its strongest features. Grohl was particularly excited to reveal Justin Timberlake as the much-teased mystery guest, who he called possibly “the biggest pop star in the world” back in June.
Although his contributions are minimal and amount to little more than backing vocals on the track “Make it Right,” his inclusion is exemplary of each guest’s contributions. “I just started calling my friends and asked them if they wanted to be on the record,” Grohl admits, “but Justin Timberlake actually asked me if he could sing on the record,” which turned out to be a worthwhile decision.
Although the album certainly will not produce hits of the same caliber as “Everlong” or “The Pretender,” Concrete and Gold proves that the Foo Fighters are still real, purebred rock stars. “We managed to do the one thing I really wanted to do,” Grohl concludes, “[which was to] make this gigantic Foo Fighters record, but with Greg Kurstin’s sense of jazz and melody and voila.” Luckily for both Dave and all of his fans, the decision paid off and produced some of the Foo Fighter’s best work to date.