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Concrete and Golden Records

Posted 12/19/2017 by Baxter Stein

Concrete and Gold becomes the second Foo Fighters Album to reach the top spot of the Billboard 200. photo by Andrew Villescas

Foo Fighters’ ninth studio album smashes sales and expectations

The Foo Fighters are an American rock band formed in 1994 by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who created a new post-grunge genre and ushered in a new era of rock history. The band is most well known for its songs “Everlong,” “The Pretender,” “Best of You,” and “Learn to Fly,” and throughout the career of the band, four of its albums have earned the Grammy Award for best rock album. With over 12 million albums sold alone, the Foo Fighters are one of the most successful rock bands in the modern era.

On September 15, 2017, American rock band Foo Fighters released their ninth studio album, Concrete and Gold. The album was produced by Greg Kurstin, a powerhouse producer of indie and pop music, producing in the past for artists such as Pink, Adele, and Kelly Clarkson. Grohl became interested in his work after listening to Kurstin’s own indie band “The Bird and the Bee,” and although Kurstin had no experience producing hard rock music, Grohl requested he produce the album. This decision came as a surprise to many die-hard Foo Fighters fans, as they rejected the idea of hiring a pop producer for a rock album. Following the release of the last several Foo Fighters albums, the largest complaint from fans has often been that the band is diverging from its hard rock roots, so Concrete and Gold had garnered a lot of negative attention even before its release.

Despite the negative press that the album faced, the album reached number one on the Billboard 200, and is only the second Foo Fighters album to do so. The album drew heavily from its inspirations, namely The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. The album has a very distinct psychedelic pop-rock sound that has the heavy guitar and harsh lyrics fans have come to expect and love, while also incorporating pop and psychedelic elements that work to make many tracks earworms, even for those who don’t listen to rock music. The album goes deeper into its influences and creates a unique and engaging style, even going so far as to feature the artists that inspired it. Artists such as Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, and Shawn Stockman recorded for songs in the studio, making for an inspired and fresh record. The album was decorated by fans and received generally positive reviews from critics, pulling the Foo Fighters out of the musical slump they were in for their last few albums.

The songs on the album are arranged extremely well, with the opener “T-Shirt,” transitioning seamlessly into the album’s lead track “Run.” The song is extremely effective, considering the context of the album’s release. With heavy, hard rock guitar riffs and loud, unapologetic vocals, many fans who doubted the validity of the album were surprised and caught off guard, proved wrong from the get-go. The hard hits keep coming, with powerhouse anthems “Make it Right,” and “The Sky is a Neighborhood,” creating a cohesive and powerful start to the album. The addition of Kurstin as a producer did affect the sound of the album, however. The album’s background is very crowded, creating a “wall of sound” that artists such as The Doors are famous for. There are very few breaks, even when the tracks are not fast or intense. This constant flow of background sound makes the album feel more cohesive, with transitions from one song to the next taking very little time and giving very little indication of a track switch. This is unusual for the Foo Fighters, and even Grohl admitted that the record was their “weird album.” The experience of listening to the album is like no other. It’s intense and intimate, but it remains calm and mind-bending in a very odd fusion of rock and roll with experimental indie-pop elements.

The album isn’t without issues, unfortunately. In an eagerness to show off their still thriving rock sensibilities, the Foo Fighters begin the record with a barrage of peppy, engaging, and powerful tracks. This makes the second half of the album much weaker, and listening to only the first six songs of eleven makes for a more exciting and interesting experience. A track in the second half of this album that really falls short of its potential is “Sunday Rain,” a rock ballad that feature McCartney on drums. However, the weakness in this track comes from the vocals. What could have been a revolutionary, emotional song with one of the most talented musicians of all time on the drumset devolves into a mediocre listening experience. The biggest reason for this is the decision to have drummer Taylor Hawkins to record the vocals. Hawkins is not a bad vocalist, but he lacks the presence and power that Grohl holds in his voice. Grohl is one of the greatest frontmen of all time, and it’s a waste of talent to have him relegated to rhythm guitar. Still, the album finishes on the title track “Concrete and Gold,” a song with a very melodic and relaxing tune and sad, politically charged lyrics that make for a very powerful experience. The track is straight off an album from the band Pink Floyd, and it really shows off the diversity and talent that the band possesses.

Though Concrete and Gold had some weaker tracks near the end of the album, the album proved many fans wrong, incorporating its slew of influences and odd producing perfectly. It shows that Foo Fighters aren’t done making relevant music, and they are willing to change and adapt to make their music impactful and important.