For the follow up to a release that magnified their roots and origin, Foo Fighters return with a blend and broad mix of sounds that speak more to their foundational form than a nostalgic glance in the rearview mirror. Where talent gave way to rationale on Sonic Highways, the band substitutes principle for ambition on Concrete and Gold. And it’s by no means an accident or coincidence that the group returned to their original tendency of broadening the spectrum of sound despite Sonic Highways standing in salute to that very endeavor. The polar differences lie in the sound, and Butch Vig (all hail) transitioning to the hit-pumping assembly line in Greg Kurstin provides the footing for releasing two drastically different albums in three years (or three in six years and change, if you’d like to throw Wasting Light into the mix).
Concrete and Gold is undoubtedly authentic to the bone, much like the monolithic return to form on Wasting Light, and it pushes the needle in favor of a band well on their way to renowned distinction. What separates it from the pioneering aura of Wasting Light is its delineation between sounds, style, and cohesiveness. Though Concrete and Gold certainly tangents off into different avenues of both unique and original pathways, the confined and concise aptitude that speaks strictly Foo Fighters comes full circle. One avenue in particular that is fresh from a catalog perspective is exploring the hard rock assets of the 80’s and 70’s. The group dives into their childhood roots of 80’s big hair and arena rock with the synth-like melody on “La Dee Da” and driving hi-hats on “Make It Right”. And though these numbers sound a bit off kilter from their repertory, they more or less point to more recent and undoubtedly comical alter-ego ventures in Chevy Metal (see here).
But where Concrete and Gold seems to venture off the track, it holistically fits into the grand scheme of their inventory. Setting the tone early on an album is certainly a facet the group has emphasized in the past, and Concrete and Gold kicks off with quite the bang in the marathon-like Rock anthem in “Run” and a the 70’s-esque epic in “Make It Right”. There’s a Jazzy/acoustic number in “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)”, a hard rock chorale in “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”, and a soft melodramatic drive on “Dirty Water”, which mirrors the blueprint of previous releases like The Colour And The Shape and There Is Nothing Left To Loose.
Positioning Wasting Light, Sonic Highways, and Concrete and Gold in comparison undermines intrinsic and individual value. For the entire catalog and discography, some stand out more than others, and, whether purposely or not (though definitely on purpose), defining their individual value is just that-Sonic Highways was a multi-media project that delves into the heart and soul of the group paired with an album where the others are solely the latter. Taking in the quality of sound and composition becomes another matter; possible but almost a forlorn ambition. Concrete and Gold focuses on the music rather than pairing aesthetics, and it’s very apparent on the record.