Sound Hot Ticket: On Foo Fighters, a band (still) full of surprises
I didn’t think Foo Fighters had any real surprises left. Then I listened to “Concrete and Gold.”
The new album (Foo Fighters’ ninth), was released in September, and it shocked me. For a band like theirs — more than 20 years in, with such a defined sound — I didn’t think shock was still possible. But here we are.
Foo Fighters bring “Concrete and Gold” to Vivint Smart Home Arena on Tuesday. The album is a vivid reminder of a lot of things. First, musical legends can never be counted out, even if they’re past their prime. Second, collaboration can be truly magical.
Dave Grohl, the band’s frontman and principal songwriter, struck up a friendship with Greg Kurstin. Kurstin’s name may not ring a bell, but his work is ubiquitous: He co-wrote and produced Adele’s latest album, “25,” including the hit song “Hello” (on which he played all the instruments), co-wrote and produced Sia’s “Chandelier,” and the same for Kelly Clarkson’s 2012 hit “Stronger.” (That’s just the tip of the iceberg — he’s also worked with Beck, Katy Perry, Ellie Goulding and Pink, and is one half of the indie-pop duo The Bird and the Bee.) Basically, Kurstin is the last guy you’d expect to produce a Foo Fighters album. But he produced “Concrete and Gold,” and it worked out way better than I could have ever expected.
Now, I’m all for collaboration and musical cross-pollination. But hard rock acts teaming up with pop producers is risky business. Pop is usually about narrowing a song’s focus, not expanding it. “Concrete and Gold” might be the most expansive Foo Fighters album ever made. When Grohl first sent the album’s demos to Kurstin, Kurstin described it as a potential “heavy-metal ‘Sgt. Pepper’ odyssey.” And that’s basically what the album became. Huge, hard-rock guitar riffs mingle with subtle psychedelic undertones and breathtaking, wall-of-sound vocal harmonies. Somehow, this nimble and expansive album has a simultaneous sense of utter abandon and complete focus. Kurstin’s pop sensibilities manifest in the actual recording quality, which is crisp and explosive — the thing just sounds incredible.
Suffice to say, I’m back on the Foo Fighters train. It’s a pretty sweet ride these days.
— Court Mann