Album: Sonic Highways
Release Date: 10/11/14
Almost 20 years on from the inception of Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl and co find themselves at their eighth studio album. As a band that doesn’t like to repeat the same worn out idea over and over, it begs the questions what can the Foo Fighters possibly do with their eighth studio album ‘Sonic Highways’?
Not only is Dave Grohl the frontman of one of the world’s biggest rock bands, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as the drummer of Nirvana, and in numerous side projects working as both musician and producer, in 2013, Dave took to film directing with ‘Sound City’, a documentary film about the history of recording studio Sound City Studios, which then led on to birth the concept of ‘Sonic Highways’.
Certainly the most ambitious Foo Fighters album to date, the album which comes with its own music documentary TV series and spans across eight cities that are embedded with America’s musical history – Seattle, Chicago, Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Washington D.C.
The inspiration of the lyric writing process comes from interviews within the documentary series, where Grohl interviews musicians, producers and lead figures within the music scene. But when you put all that to one side, Foo Fighters’ eighth studio album ‘Sonic Highways’ isn’t as unorthodox as expected. The album is packed full of arena-rock, punk-fuelled riffs with a Sound City-esque twist with artists featuring on each track.
The opening single (Something from Nothing) is a slow–building track that eases you into the album with an intro that pays homage to blues legend ‘Muddy Waters’ before dropping into a riff that resembles Dio’s Holy Diver. Certainly not as hard hitting as past opening tracks such as ‘All My Life’ or ‘Bridge Burning’ but as the song reaches its last minute, Grohl’s throat wrenching scream and Chris Schiflett’s squealing guitar solo introduces you to the Foo Fighters sound they have produced for the last 20 years.
Washington-punk inspired track (The Feast and The Famine) and the third track (Congregation) being inspired by Nashville’s country rock continues on the heavy rock sound expected, although being slightly side-tracked by Zac Brown stepping into the limelight of an unnecessary mellow breakdown.
Austin, Texas’ track (What Did I Do?/God As My Witness) is a much more radio friendly sound with the first section stuttering along before dropping into an upbeat melody and bouncy guitar riff before the second section kicks in and offers up one of the biggest sing alongs of the album.
Being inspired by the history and the surroundings of the city was the intention of Grohl and co, but the album was never going to consist of one country track, one hip-hop track and one punk track. The lyrics’ are where the real tribute to the cities are, and artistically, Dave has produced some of his finest lyrics within the album.
But although the lyrics offer up the most meaning and value to the city and history of America’s music, the generic Los Angeles (Outside) and New Orleans track (In The Clear) seem to be used as a buffer for the albums’ content, rather than tracks that can stand alone by themselves. With regurgitated riffs that follow on from the opening track and what sounds like a live solo improvisation, they are the weakest tracks on the album.
But as the album reaches the final two songs, the Seattle track (Subterranean) was always going to open up a lot of demos for Dave, as the first Foo Fighters’ debut album was created in the same studio a year after the death of Kurt Cobain. The purity within the song is chilling, as Grohl’s most honest account of his past, he reflects back over everything that has happened within his life. What could be perceived as a closing chapter for Dave, the gloomy grunge track bleeds into the final track (I Am The River), recorded in New York.
No doubt that the seven minute anthem was always intended to be the closing track, the repetition of the chorus, and backing instrumentation that builds up for the finale of the track makes for a spectacular ending that closes the album perfectly.
‘Sonic Highways’ isn’t Foo Fighters’ best album, but there isn’t a standalone album from their back catalogue that is better than the rest. Their eighth studio album is simply another brilliant album to add to that back catalogue, but with the addition of documenting the history of American music, and paying tribute to legends within music, the creative workload to try to attempt such an intriguing mission was bold, but to produce ‘Sonic Highways’ as the finished product is certainly a feat worthy of being held as one of Foo Fighters’ finest moments.