An ex­er­cise in Grohl power

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Imag­ine all the world’s big rock bands adrift on a leaky raft. Sup­plies are low. Who’s shark bait? It’s a sce­nario sadly untestable in the field, but few rock fans would con­ceiv­ably pick Foo Fight­ers over more di­vi­sive arena-fillers – Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, say, or U2.

Born from the ashes of Nir­vana, but trans­formed into a jug­ger­naut thanks to Dave Grohl’s grasp of melod­ics, the Foos are a re­li­able group who are hard to hate: power with tunes, good times with grav­i­tas. For their ninth al­bum, the first af­ter a bro­ken leg tem­po­rar­ily hob­bled the ir­re­press­ible Grohl (“I feel the metal in my bones,” runs one wry lyric here), they have en­listed pop mer­chant Greg Kurstin (Adele, Katy Perry, Lily Allen; more re­cently, Liam Gal­lagher, Beck) to pro­duce.

The sci­ence is sim­ple enough: ev­ery lick gets its ti­ta­nium sheen, the vo­cals are lay­ered mille­feuilles upon mille­feuilles, and Grohl is able to fur­ther in­dulge his in­ner singer­song­writer (as on the pretty love song Dirty Wa­ter) as well as his an­themic thrasher (Run; the video is awe­some).

Al­bums eight and seven were, in their own ways, con­cep­tual; Con­crete

and Gold is much more ac­ces­si­ble. Such is Grohl’s pulling power that he can rope in Justin Tim­ber­lake on back­ing vo­cals, or call up his buddy Paul McCart­ney to play drums on Sun­day Rain. You would never ac­cuse Grohl of be­ing a smug star, the kind who would coun­te­nance semi-re­tire­ment run­ning a trout farm. There’s still a lot of roil­ing go­ing on un­der the af­fa­ble ex­te­rior. But ninth al­bums from fa­mous dudes with Bea­tles as jam-mates aren’t known for grab­bing you by the giz­zards and turn­ing you in­side out.

As it is here. No rein­ven­tions, no crises of faith, and – given it’s 2017 – no overt state-of-the-na­tion ad­dresses – un­less you are count­ing the oblique open­ing track, T-shirt, which Grohl has said was writ­ten in re­ac­tion to the po­lit­i­cal mood ( you can’t re­ally tell). La Dee Da, mean­while, is lit­tered with ref­er­ences to ob­scure rightwing bands. In a re­cent in­ter­view, Grohl was at pains to ex­plain that the song re­con­nects with both his own alien­ated teen self and other alien­ated young males he knew. You get the feel­ing it’s loosely about the em­bit­tered testos­terone fu­elling cur­rent US pol­i­tics.

The rest ranges far and wide: love songs, sto­ry­telling, ques­tion­ing. There are chant-along tunes that start raw and be­come sat­u­rated, such as The Sky Is a Neigh­bor­hood, whose heav­ios­ity is leav­ened by an­gelic back­ing sighs. McCart­ney is here in spirit as well in body. Sun­day Rain is highly Beat­ley; so is Happy Ever Af­ter (Zero Hour). Both have a dark bent. “Where is your Shangri-la now?” muses Grohl on the lat­ter. “Happy ever af­ter/ Count­ing down to zero hour/ There ain’t no su­per­heroes now.”

Grohl and co are on point, the track­list has girth and depth. What

Con­crete and Gold lacks, per­haps, is ac­tual con­crete: fresh, mod­ern, risky ar­chi­tec­ture, rather than Bea­tles tributes.

Pho­to­graph by Brant­ley Gu­tier­rez

‘Good times with grav­i­tas’: Foo Fight­ers front­man Dave Grohl, third left, with fel­low band mem­bers.

ROCK Foo Fight­ers Con­crete and Gold (ROSWELL/SONY)

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