The Foo Fighters debuted their eighth studio album, Sonic Highways, this November, masterfully paying homage to the music capitals of America while managing to incorporate their own sound into an impeccable octet of new songs.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of Sonic Highways, frontman Dave Grohl wanted to record each song in a different city, specifically ones with rich music histories. With the purpose of capturing the unique sounds and culture of each region, Grohl chose to write lyrics on the day of recording in order to better relay his experience in the city into the music.
The album opens up with “Something From Nothing,” their first single, recorded in Chicago. The intro starts off quiet and melodic, before morphing into a high-octane thriller. Tasked with following this masterpiece is “The Feast and the Famine,” recorded in Washington, D.C. Frantic and energetic, it perfectly fits with the punk scene of the DC area.
“Congregation” serves as a perfect example of the city influencing the lyrics: “The voice upon the stage/ Is a heart inside a cage/ And they’re singing like a bluebird in the round” just screams Nashville. And while “What Did I Do/God As My Witness,” recorded in Austin, functions as the low point of the album, it would be a high point for other rock bands today.
Kicking off the second half of the album is “Outside,” an otherworldly track that features the legendary Joe Walsh on a psychedelic guitar solo. Recorded in Los Angeles, “Outside” proves one of the (albeit many) highlights of Sonic Highways. “In The Clear” blends catchy with classic, as Grohl recruited New Orleans’ own Preservation Hall Jazz Band to assist on this number.
Seattle’s “Subterranean” showcases the city’s rainy atmosphere through a gloomy, sepulchral sound, offering a nice contrast from the rest of the album. And the final song of the album, “I Am A River,” recorded in New York, absolutely blew me away. Listen to Foo Fighters’ first album, and then this orchestral jewel: you will be astounded at the musical growth of this band. A Zeppelin-esque intro followed by an anthemic chorus brimming with clever, intertwining guitar parts proves that Dave Grohl can do plenty more than drum.
Like I said before, the Foo Fighters did a bang-up job of maintaining their style while simultaneously re-creating the unique expressions of the cities they visited. Old fans and new fans alike should rejoice at this.
Two overarching themes of the album that stood out to me were increased usage of keyboards and Taylor Hawkins’ brilliant drum work. Whether it be with a mellotron or an organ, Foo Fighters demonstrated their versatility and expanded on their sound through the addition of these instruments to their songs. And the aforementioned Hawkins truly shines on Sonic Highways, bashing out ridiculous drum fills like it is nothing. While the album represents his finest work, let us not forget the rest of the band, who only appear to get better with age.
Want a recommendation for a certain song to purchase on iTunes? How about this: buy the entire album. You will not regret it.
The Chant’s grade: A