Amidst the rubble of Nirvana’s ruin, multi-instrumentalist and world’s coolest dude, Dave Grohl emerged from the drum set to form the Foo Fighters in 1995. Many a heated discussion has been held about whether the Foo Fighters have matched or surpassed Nirvana. No matter the resulting answer, the Foo Fighters have gone on to sell 11.1 million records as of May 2014, and won four Grammys for best rock album. Those accomplishments are not easily dismissed.
AfterNirvana’s implosion, Grohl had many offers to join established bands, “I was supposed to just join another band and be a drummer for the rest of my life. I thought that I would rather do what no one expected of me.” Grohl could have easily retired from the music scene an extremely rich man. Undoubtedly he is a man who had few boxes left to tick off in any music success measurement list, remember along with all the other Nirvana accolades; he is already inducted into the Rock N. Roll Hall of Fame. But instead of rescuing himself from the rock world, Grohl, ever the journeyman musician started up another very successful band.
Sonic Highways comes with a lot of buzz. Along with the album release Dave Grohl hosted the HBO show of the same title, featuring the band recording in eight different studios throughout America. The new release, the eighth of the band’s career, is instantly recognizable as a Foo Fighters record, but there is something deeper and more musical to it. Grohl states about the release,” I think that these cities and these people influenced us, to stretch out and explore new territory with out losing our sound.” The studios were located in; Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle, and Washington D.C. Butch Vig, the legendary producer of Nirvana and Drummer in the venerated altie group Garbage, is again in charge of the faders on this release. Also returning behind Grohl are Chris Shiflett on lead guitar and back vocals, Pat Smear on rhythm guitar and back vocals, Nate Mondel on bass, and Taylor Hawkins on drums and back vocals. In the studio sessions Rami Jaffee provided keyboard, piano, organ and accordion. All the songs also feature local legends sitting in and every song’s lyric was developed in an unprecedented experimental style. Grohl’s technique was to hold off adding the lyrics until the last day in each studio to reflect the experiences in each city. Grohl has said the album is a love letter to the history of American Music.
Kicking off with the highly promoted Something From Nothing a solid melodic song which builds to an epic finish. It is heavy rocking with a biting chorus. Grohl sings about risking it all to become what he is today. The song channels some wicked energy from the band into the speakers. The song The Feast and the Famine twists the saying, something being either feast or famine, and rocks out with a glitchy loopy track. There is a strong punk styling underpinning the tune. The aggressive play might make you concerned that someone or something might get hurt; it is a no holds bar on this track. Distorted organ fronts out the song Congregation it is melodic with solid drumming that glides along with the guitar play. Grohl shows up his vocal talents on this selection. The lyrics are almost gospel in nature,” No false hope, where is your blind faith?” Grohl aptly plants seeds of truth without preaching or sloganeering.
What Did I Do/God As My Witness These paired songs both abound in catchy hooks and reminding me of Bob Mould’s current work Beauty and Ruin. The songs reflect that they were recorded in Austin and blend Soul and Blues with Rock. I found myself liking God As My Witness every so slightly over What Did I Do but both are solid songs. Outside opens with a great reverb effect. The song is standard Foo Fighters as we have come to expect. Even with the studio effects the song has a great organic feel. The drum grounds the song as the guitars soar throughout the track. Butch Vig gets high marks for the production on this song. In the Clear is a mid tempo rocker, and the most poppy entry of the release.
The breathe taking Subterranean opens with a delightful acoustic guitar. It is a real sonic beauty. A feature on the track is this great lyrical coda "You might think you know me but you don’t”, “You might think you own me, but you don’t.” This song is the “do not miss” song of the release. Subterranean is more introspective than any other song on the disc, and very powerful. I am A River is an epic song. The organ intro with lovely lulling guitar motif is like a sonic river. It teases the listener through the verses as you wait for Grohl and the band to release the rock hammer building to the chorus. The song acts like an exclamation point at the end of a worthy recording.
Grohl and Company know their craft. It is all too easy to take for granted the quality music the Foo Fighters create because they are always so consistently good. The album contains stellar tunes from some of the most able rock musicians in the world today. A hat tip goes to Butch Vig for his impeccable production. There is an always greatness in any Foo Fighters release and Sonic Highways is another great addition to their noteworthy discography.