For their ninth
record, Concrete and gold, Dave Grohl has decided that he wanted to make
an old school album, like in the golden age of rock, of the 60s and 70s.
He has sought to make a unified work, like Dark side of the moon or Sgt. Pepper’s, but
from the perspective of his band, Foo Fighters. The
bad part is that the weight of those enormous influences is all too clear and
in the end the album belittles the impact of the final product.
After recording Wasting light in his garage and an innumerable number of studios for Sonic Highways, for this record Foo Fighters have settled on Hollywood's EastWestStudios, with the producer Greg Kurstin, famous for his collaborations with Sia and Adele. But not even this change is completely original, as Grohl’s friends Queens Of The Stone Age had previously employed a pop producer, Mark Ronson, for their last album, with better results.
In any case Grohl continues to show that he is a good craftsman of songs, besides being the most friendly guy in rock. The start is clearly ‘McCartnian', with T-Shirt, from the lyrics, suggesting that he "doesn't want to be king or queen, he only wants to sing love songs", to the music, with that change from acoustic to orchestral, which seems to be taken from Live and let die. This is followed by Run, possibly the best song on the album or, at least, the most powerful. In the video that accompanies it, one can see Grohl's idea of fighting against the fossilization of rock, of keeping the flame alive, which is absolutely laudable. It is, furthermore, one of the songs that sounds most like the band should, with their three guitars raving at the same time (Grohl on his famous DG335 Trini Lopez, Chris Shiflett adding the flourishes with his '62 Fender Telecaster Custom and Pat Smear changing his Hagstrom for a Les Paul Custom), on a record loaded with references to the greatest in history. The nods to the Beatles are continuous and even Paul McCartney himself appears as special guest, playing the drums on Sunday Rain, a song so Beatles that Taylor Hawkins sings it as if he were Lennon and Chris Shiflett adds colour, as if he were Harrison. For its part Happy Ever After (Zero Hour) seems to be the younger cousin of Blackbird…
But Concrete and gold, does not only reference the Beatles, the title song flirts with psychedelia and prog rock, and the band leave their comfort zone to try to be be Pink Floyd, or in others, Led Zeppelin or Queen. The start of La Dee Da is pure Queens Of The Stone Age, with a cool bass riff, before the guitars come in. In Make it right the band add a riff taken out of Jimmy Page's notebook, with a funky touch. The Line is an attempt to write a hymn to be sung along to in a stadium, but it sounds anodyne.
For an album that has been described, daringly, as the Motörhead cover of Sgt. Pepper's, it lacks the aggression of the former and the originality of the latter. Foo Fighters have tried to create an old school record but they have forgotten what is most important, to stop being a cover of something else, and to put themselves in it.
It is not that it is a bad record, but neither is it the enormous album it wants to be. It is good that Dave Grohl has sought to keep alive the spirit of the rock greats, but to appear by their side needs something more than to try be like them; they need to innovate.