IN MY MIND, Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters have never really been an ‘album’ band. Foo Fighters was fine. Wasting Light was fine. The Color and the Shape was fine. But when it comes to singles, the band have got some corkers. ‘The Pretender’ is a classic. ‘Learn to Fly’ is as delightful as its music video. ‘Monkey Wrench’ is fantastic. In fact, the Foo Fighter’s (unauthorised) Best Of is the only Best of album I’ve ever really wanted to buy.
Unlike their peers Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters’ albums just don’t hit the spot. With Sonic Highways, however, the band took their recording process to new levels by recording each song in a different city across the United State. Will this make a drastic change to the sound of their record?
Well, in terms of their sound, it’s much of a muchness. Like most of their releases, Foo Fighters have stuck to what they do best and created a guitar-heavy album. Fair enough; that’s what they’ve done best for the last 20 years. It’s a tad predictable, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. At only eight tracks long, however, the band have dropped the three and a half minute radio friendly formula for sprawling, anthemic, five+ minute tracks. They’ve adapted well, and the new approach is interesting. Unfortunately, with this change in arrangement, the band have lost the snappiness that made such hits as ‘Rope’ and ‘Breakout’. It’s sad for me to say, but I found myself feeling slightly bored during ‘I Am A River’.
It’s strange; no matter how much Dave Grohl yells unintelligible words in ‘The Feast and the Famine’, the song gets no more enjoyable. I mean, I enjoy shouty music as much as the next music critic, but I just don’t enjoy hearing the ‘Nicest Man in Rock’ cry: ‘YOUCAMFOPEEIFYOCAMFINAHOME’. Then there’s that strangely suspect ruff on ‘Something From Nothing’. Listen to Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ and you’ll see what I mean. It just doesn’t capture the imagination of the listener like so many other tracks from the band.
Sonic Highways can be blown up as much as you like, but in the end it just deflates like a balloon. Sure, Foo Fighters have deviated and made some sort of effort to change their style, but it doesn’t work as well as they’d like. This leads to, quite frankly, boring music. Sure, the band have roped in collaborators, but it makes little to no difference. Better luck next time, Dave.
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