Posted on November 14th, 2014 (2:00 pm) by Angela Goldberg

The Foo Fighters have had a foot solidly cemented in the world of rock and roll for a long time now. The band was conceived in 1994 by former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, after the death of Kurt Cobain. Despite the lofty ties to one of the biggest bands of the '90s grunge era, The Foo Fighters and Grohl have managed to develop a sound distinctly their own. Sonic Highways manages to display the scope of the Foo Fighters' massive career. It brings in guest musicians and develops sounds in the context of a larger than life concept. However, it still holds fast to the band's roots, both in sound and personnel, with former touring Nirvana guitarist, Pat Smear, returning for his second album since rejoining the band for their 2011 release, Wasting Light.

For their eighth studio album, the rockers decided to take a slightly different, more ambitious, approach. In conjunction with the release of the Sonic Highways album, the Foo Fighters are airing a documentary series, directed by frontman, Dave Grohl. The HBO series focuses on eight different cities and their musical histories and influences. It’s an enjoyable history lesson in the same vain as Grohl’s 2013 directorial debut, Sound City. The series is led by the ever jovial Grohl, who seems to be best friends with everyone from Emmylou Harris to Guy Clark, Jr., to the guys of the punk outfit Bad Brains. Each episode focuses on one city, exploring it through interviews with musicians and music industry folk. It then showcases the Foo Fighters recording a song in each city (with a special local guest). Grohl is shown penning the lyrics for each tune after ruminating about the city's musical roots and his collected interviews, and each episode ends with an impeccably produced performance of the song.

The concept is absolutely huge. It’s an all-encompassing idea, and as a bigger picture project, it works. However, the album on its own has a few shortcomings. That being said, it’s without a doubt the Foo Fighters. They didn’t let the cities or their musical guests take over the songwriting or their sound. On the Nashville episode of the mini-series, Grohl vocalizes his concern that the track they’re working on is getting too “country.” The song outcome, “Congregation,” with musical guest Zac Brown on guitar, ends up being anything but country. It’s a catchy pop-rock track, with bright guitars and melodic vocals, peppered with Grohl’s guttural bursts. It’s an upbeat and unmistakably Foo Fighters track.

Meanwhile, the album’s opener “Something From Nothing,” Chicago’s song counterpart, is a quintessential Foo song with its heavy guitars, its crisp drums, Grohl’s eventual crescendo into his perfected screams, and baritone guitar supplied by Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen. It evokes earlier memories of the band from their 2002 release, One By One.

The album’s last two tracks, “Subterranean” and “I Am a River,” slow down the pace of the album, letting their musical road trip come to a relatively quiet end. However, the length and repetitive nature of “I Am a River” end up leaving the listener feeling weary and a little bored, kind of like the last hour in the car after a long road trip. Fitting, but not necessarily how you want to feel at the end of an album. Additionally, while it’s a nice tribute to write the lyrics for each song in each city, it makes for some cheesy metaphors and obvious lines.

Regardless of its flaws as a stand-alone album, taken side by side with its 8 part documentary, it’s an enjoyable, informative, and all around fun treat. It makes a few things absolutely clear: Dave Grohl can and will create any project he sets his mind on, the Foo Fighters are still a force to be reckoned with, and these guys seem like damn fun travel companions. Overall, Sonic Highways, Dave Grohl’s “musical map of America,” is an enjoyable and inspiring project.

Track List:

  1. Something From Nothing
  2. The Feast and the Famine
  3. Congregation
  4. What Did I Do?/God as My Witness
  5. Outside
  6. In the Clear
  7. Subterranean
  8. I Am a River
Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

69 / 100
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