With their newest album, Concrete and Gold, releasing on September 15th, PCB would like to take you through the Foo Fighters’ entire recorded history. We are going to go through the catalogue, album by album, giving you some Foo Fighters history, a take on the albums and a few other tracks from that era that are worth checking out. Follow along and please add your comments below. Today’s offering is their sixth album: Sonic Highways.
In 2014, the Foo Fighters did something that had never been done before on a studio album: record each track in a different city. In conjunction with an HBO Docuseries, the band chronicled their journey across the United States’ most musical cities on their eighth album, Sonic Highways.
Utilizing talent and emulating the sound of each city, the Foo Fighters created a sonic history book of music in America.
Album by Album : Foo Fighters
Sonic Highways only has eight songs on it, one for each city.
“Something from Nothing” was recorded in Chicago and guest stars Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. This is a great lead off track for the album. It has a lot of that great Foo Fighters’ sound and hooks to pull you in, then breaks out into a really funky jam. A lot of these songs are long, but I like them because they have many layers. They don’t feel excessive because it’s not the same part droning on (for the most part).
“The Feast and the Famine” stays true to that Foo Fighters’ classic sound, which will go away as the record goes on. Recorded in Grohl’s hometown of Arlington, Virginia, it features Scream members Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson. The guitar hook in between the chorus is catchy as hell!
“Congregation” features Zac Brown and was recorded in Nashville. You couldn’t do a musical tour of the country without including Nashville. This is probably my favorite song on the album (despite me not really caring for Zac Brown’s music). The whining guitars on this song are outstanding! The sound feels like it’s in a church, which is what Souther Ground Studios looks like.
“What Did I Do?/God as My Witness” is very unbalanced. Firstly, it’s two songs combined so it’s already cheating. Secondly, those two songs feel forced together. Parts of this song, including Gary Clark Jr.’s performance, are really great, but others fall flat for this Austin-recorded tune. I wish this song was a better because it does have a cool, southern feel to it.
“Outside” was recorded at Joshua Tree, CA. This definitely captures the California sound, especially with Eagles’ Joe Walsh on guitar. I will say that this song gets very repetitive, repeating “outside” over and over again. It doesn’t lead to anything, just kind of hangs out at that level. Halfway through this song is where the album starts going downhill.
Foo Fighters hit the Big Easy on “In the Clear”
“In the Clear” is a fun tune featuring the Preservation Jazz band from New Orleans. There’s not really any jazz in this song though, which is puzzling. It just sounds like a more orchestral Foo Fighters’ song. I spoke too soon about the album going downhill. This song is good, but suffers from being stuck between two duds.
“Subterranean” was recorded at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle. This dull tune is a real downer, but did you expect more from guest star Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie)? This song is slooooooow. It is a real chore to get through. With all of the great sounds coming out of Seattle in the grunge era, you’d think Grohl would have a kick ass track here. I can understand him not wanting to retread his steps, but take a lesson from The Kinks and give the people what they want.
“I Am a River” was recorded in New York City with Kristeen Young and Tony Visconti. This song suffers the same fate as “Outside” and “Subterranean,” it gets boring very fast. Just repeating the title over and over with no real build to anything greater. It seems they continued this trend on their next album, Concrete and Gold.
Coming off an amazing album like Wasting Light, Sonic Highways needed to have a gimmick. On an eight song album, you don’t have time to waste, so every song should be killer. Two of these aren’t and two of them are just mediocre. It was a good idea, but several of the songs seem to be rushed and the sequencing of the two slowest songs at the end doesn’t help.
Sonic Highways (2014) is a 6 out of 10 stars!
But wait… there’s more!
There are a few more tracks from this era that are worth noting.
In 2015, the Foo Fighters released a free EP – Saint Cecilia. Dedicated to the victims of the Paris attacks, the EP was released online and later made available on Vinyl. It’s hard to complain about something free, and it’s even harder to complain about something that goes towards a good cause, but this EP was a real letdown. Titles like “Savior Breath” and “Iron Rooster” read more like that “clever” Aerosmith humor than the normally funny Foo Fighters. Most of the songs were unused from past albums and this EP certainly feels like a helping of old leftovers.
“Saint Cecilia” – The title track is pretty good. Decent rock song that is catchy.
“Savior Breath” – Aside from the headache I get from all of the eyerolling at this title, it’s a pretty great heavy song.