The Foo Fighters’ ability to consistently deliver a slab of wallto-wall guitars has long been a source of both praise and criticism alike. They’ve always had rock on lock – it’s why they still headline the world’s biggest festivals, and when every other rock mainstay eventually jumps ship to the pop realm, it’s what we can depend on.
But the Foos’ ninth LP is a curious beast indeed. For a band well into their second decade, they still manage a number of firsts. Long-time keyboardist Rami Jaffee has earned his status as a bonafide Foo (and a commemorative pin, probably) as he officially rounds out the band to a six-piece. It’s also the first time Dave Grohl has called upon a pop songwriter (Greg Kurstin) to handle production duties.
The man behind Adele’s “Hello” doesn’t seem like an obvious choice, but then again, this isn’t an obvious Foos record. It takes its cues from the classic rock and blues of old – it’s one that sees a Beatle sit behind the kit on the ‘70s rock-inspired “Sunday Rain” while resident tubthumper Taylor Hawkins steps up to the mic; one that takes a raw and bluesy, gospelinspired approach on “The Sky is a Neighborhood”, complete with vocal harmonies from The Kills’ Alison Mosshart. It’s an album that seemingly delivers Grohl’s take on “Blackbird” with the delicate fingerpicking of “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)”.
And yet, the hallmarks of a Foos record remain: the heavily distorted “La Dee Da” recalls the wild, unrestrained edge of “Wattershed”, while the massive chorus of “Arrows” instils it with instant replay value. Elsewhere, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men lends his vocals to the ambling, slow-burner of a title track (and it doesn’t make for the anomaly those words would suggest).
It’s not quite the speakers-to-11 screech-a-thon that a monster lead single like “Run” would suggest, but there’s a depth here that Grohl and the gang have never fully allowed themselves to explore until now.
So much for an “indefinite hiatus”, eh?