What happens when you combine a hard rock mainstay of the 1990s with today’s most sought-after pop producer? You get a modern rock album that makes you want to hit the “concrete;” one with just enough winning tracks to possibly achieve “gold” record status.
Always pushing creative limits, the Foo Fighters teamed up with Greg Kurstin (Adele’s 25 and longtime Red Hot Chili Peppers’ session keys man) to produce an album that sits in the mid-to-upper echelon of the band’s nine studio LPs. Concrete and Gold stands out from others in its ability to successfully experiment with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Brian Wilson, while continuing to produce songs that straddle the line between angry and sunny.
“The Line” exemplifies what the Fighters do best: delivering rock anthems with a catchy chorus. This one sounds familiar enough. There’s a “Times Like These” quality to it, yet more concise and not as fancily engineered as the other ten tracks. “The Line” is already being used in pro sports promos. After all, the MLB post-season is upon us and “…everything’s on the line.”
“The Sky Is a Neighborhood” leads in with waves of Pet Sounds-like vocals which later become fill-in harmonies. It’s a slow, almost-bluesy tune which gets heavier with each layer and explodes with a group chorus. During “Run,” frontman Dave Grohl taps into his inner banshee to belt out nearly five and a half minutes of pseudo-metal which changes tempo, pitch and vocal range. It’s the album’s first real song and takes you on a journey “in another perfect life.” Other standouts include “La Dee Da” and “Dirty Water,” keeping the pace lively and loud.
The clunker is the title track, which doubles as the closer. It’s nearly a dirge and features surprising guest vocals from Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men. On an album built for experimentation and potential, this was the missed opportunity. You can’t tell its Stockman lending his abilities to a song that is seriously downtuned and distortion-heavy. “Sunday Rain” showcases drummer Taylor Hawkins getting his “once in a blue moon” lead vocal spot, the first time since 2005. Mid-paced, the song is not bad nor is it captivating.
Overall, Concrete and Gold has enough interesting and highly-listenable songs to keep fans engaged until the next outing. It’s also peppered with guest appearances from some surprising and major musicians, from Sir Paul McCartney to Sia. These minor contributions are another reason the album warrants repeated listening (as does most of the band’s output) and eventually may prove to be one of the Foo Fighters’ stronger collections.