It’s always tricky when you enjoy the idea of a band more than you actually enjoy the band’s music. This is exactly the problem with Foo Fighters, I love all the band members; I love the passion they have for the music they create and for the effort they put into their live shows; I love a lot of the ideologies they have in trying to make music in the most genuine and sincere ways they can, and for their appreciation of music’s rich history. I don’t however love their music a lot of the time, I don’t hate it, I just don’t love it. Never has there been more of a realisation of that than this year as I’ve been falling in love with their HBO show (also entitled Sonic Highways) and the brilliant way they go into each cities’ music history such as the rise of hardcore punk bands like ‘Minor Threat’. It’s just struck me as odd that none of these influences that they’ve surrounded themselves around have really managed to sink into the music other than a couple of lyrics with interviewers that Grohl has had.
Foo Fighters have never really been a band to change their sound ever, they have just found different ways to record them. This being their most ambitious way of recording their sound yet. They unfortunately don’t utilize this though and end up creating the same sound even when they add in a series of guest musicians with each song. In the documentary when the guest musician Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick got asked to play guitar for them on the song ‘Something From Nothing’ he asked whether they actually need another guitarist since they already have three and a bassist, and this is where the album partly fails. There is no telling on that song that there would be a guest musician on that track, sonically you could have probably gotten away with two guitars. For an album that could have been a star studded showcase of American music for it to feel much the same as Foo Fighters circa 2007 AND circa pre 2000s is quite disappointing.
Another way in which the concept fails is having Grohl pen these lyrics based off of parts of the things that his interviewees say, it’s a fantastic concept but they’re not always delivered that well. Apart from the fact the lyrics are a far-cry from some of Foo Fighters most relatable and personal work such as ‘Everlong’ they also feel a bit forced. The songwriting often comes off like an actual piece of forced work instead of something that he’s passionately written and had fun performing. Of course it’s not all bad though and there are some great melodies on this album like on the song ‘Congregation’.
When you forget about the fact that it’s disappointing in the context of the concept, the instrumentation on here does occasionally actually shine through. There is a moment on the opening track when there is a brilliant breakdown with a funky bassline before going into this fantastic all out hard rock performance showcasing their ability to play off of each other very well. Taylor Hawkins’ drumming is fantastic as usual (as you would need to be in a band with Dave Grohl) as even on the weaker songs like ‘What Did I Do?/God As My Witness’ he puts on a brilliant performance and is one of the most admirable figures on the album. There are moments littered throughout this record where they’ve put together these brilliant passageways of music that build up fantastically, even when the songs themselves aren’t that interesting.
This album isn’t bad, it’s just disappointing given it’s brilliant concept. The concept translates so much better onto the screen and shows us some sort of a journey of American music where it’s musical counterpart does not. Taken on it’s own this record has got a few songs to add to another greatest hits, and since they’ve rarely changed over the years they’ll slot in like a charm.Foo Fighters will always remain a part of American music and have served as a gateway drug for so many into getting into other music, it just a shame that a lot of these songs end up not leaving much of a memorable mark on you.