There’s a lot of pressure on the Foo Fighters these days. Many fans of rock credit them for keeping the genre alive during the dark reign of the 21st century pop takeover. This band is seen as the last remaining rock stars, with Dave Grohl as the beloved savior of rock n’ roll.
It’s a reputation they’ve certainly earned with great songwriting, expert musicianship, and performances that rock hard enough to register as earthquakes (which actually happened in 2011). When you set the bar that high, however, you are bound to miss the mark eventually.
Their new release, Sonic Highways, is a good album, but it’s definitely not their best work. 2,030 iTunes listeners give the album an average rating of 4.5 stars, but I would hesitate to give it more than 4 stars.
The concept behind the album is intriguing. It features eight songs recorded in eight different cities around the country; each song is musically and lyrically inspired by the city it was recorded in. Every song also has a special guest musician who has some ties to that specific city.
“The Feast and the Famine,” recorded in Washington D.C., mentions historical monuments from the area. In addition, contributing to that track are members of the legendary D.C. punk band Scream, whom Grohl drummed for in the 80’s. Another example would be the song “In the Clear” recorded in New Orleans featuring The Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
There was an HBO series, titled “Sonic Highways” chronicling the making of the album, which is being currently broadcasted. The band obviously had a lot of fun together in making this uniquely inspired album. It does come close to being gimmicky, but the quality of the music legitimizes itself in its own right. To make this album a really interesting listening experience, listeners can easily imagine the lyrics coming from the perspective of the particular city itself, which no doubt was the clear intention the band.
Another positive quality of Sonic Highways that stands out is the heavy influence of classic rock. There are hints of this in most of the tracks, but some tracks are more obvious. “Something from Nothing” contains a riff that can only be described as an homage to Dio’s “Holy Diver.” The guitar solo on “Outside” is performed by none other than Joe Walsh of the Eagles. If the purpose was to include the musical heritage of each city in its respective song, this may even be an intentional part of the composition.
Overall, Sonic Highways is a good album that suffers from the preceding reputation of a band that everybody expects to be earth-shattering−or rather, earth-shaking. It feels like a filler album because none of the individual songs seem to hit the listener particularly hard. Time may tell otherwise, but it seems like none of these songs have the potential to be the next classic.