Album Review: Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters

Sonic Highways album cover

Sounds distinctively Foo Fighters, no more no less

The Foo’s previous album Wasting Light, which won the Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards in 2012, is one of my favourite albums of the decade so of course, I was excited to hear what’s next from them. Could they possibly top that album? Unfortunately, despite being produced by Butch Vig again, Sonic Highways sounds more or less of what we’ve already heard from them before, with the similar concept from the OST of Dave Grohl’s documentary Sound City where the band co-composed and recorded with other veterans in the music scene with each track’s genre mixed with the respective musician’s element.

The twist here was that each track was recorded at the respective featured musician’s state and apparently production at these different locations gave Grohl different feelings. The first track and single “Something From Nothing” (Chicago), which features Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen on the baritone guitar, starts soft with the bluesy tone and slowly builds up to the heavier end with Grohl’s awesome trademark vocals screaming “Fuck it all, I came from nothing!” The heaviest track on the album “The Feast and the Famine” (Virginia) has strong impactful chorus with hardcore punk band Scream’s Pete Stahl and Skeeter Thompson on gang vocals. The album also consists of songs that are more easy and listener-friendly like “What Did I Do/God As My Witness” which features Gary Clark, Jr. on the lead guitar.

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Then there’s the more familiar pop-ish side of The Foos with a track like “In the Clear”, with palm muting distorted guitar strums for verses and lyrics about Grohl’s confused relationship and circles around (again). The album ends with rather more emotional notes. Dark offbeat track “Subterranean” is recorded in Seattle, where his former band Nirvana was part of, and it seems to be about Grohl’s turning away and starting anew after the end of a relationship. The closing track “I Am a River” is rather confusing as the chorus sounds uplifting, with guitar picking reverbs while Grohl scream-singing the title repeatedly followed by the melodic orchestral strings, but the lyrics are actually quite sad.

The biggest disappointment is that the album only has 8 tracks as opposed to the initial indication that there’d be 13 in total. However, this is still a good album for the fans. Just that Sonic Highways is not the followup we’re hoping for after Wasting Light and as decently enjoyable as it is, it wouldn’t be the album I’d listen to over and over again until their next one comes out.

Favourite track: Something From Nothing

Least favourite track: In The Clear

Rating: 3 / 5

Release Date: 10 November 2014
Recorded: Sept. 2013 – July 2014

Genre: Alternative rock, post-grunge, hard rock
Label: Roswell, RCA
Producer: Butch Vig

Track List:
1. Something from Nothing (Chicago, IL) feat, Rick Nielsen – (4:49)
2. The Feast and the Famine (Arlington, VA) feat. Pete Stahl & Skeeter Thompson of Scream (3:49)
3. Congregation (Nashville, TN) feat. Zac Brown (5:12)
4. What Did I Do? / God As My Witness (Austin, TX) feat. Gary Clark, Jr. (5:44)
5. Outside (Joshua Tree, CA) feat. Joe Walsh (5:15)
6. In the Clear (New Orleans, LA) feat. Preservation Hall Jazz Band (4:04)
7. Subterranean (Seattle, WA) feat. Ben Gibbard (6:08)
8. I Am a River (New York, NY) feat. Tony Visconti, Kristeen Young (7:09)

Singles: (the first four tracks of the album)

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  1. Henry Lee

    I have the same thoughts as you on this album as well. It doesn't have the same feel compared to their previous album. Although I wasn't entirely happy with Wasting Light but at least it's alright to play the entire album when I am travelling. This one could be easily forgettable from my music playlist…

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