After 7 albums, 11 Grammy awards, and countless hours of studio and touring time, the Foo Fighters are back with their 8th album, Sonic Highways, released on November 10th as a celebration of their twentieth anniversary as a band. Over the past year, the band has been travelling across their home country of the United States to visit and explore iconic recording studies and musical landmarks to chronicle and capture them within this latest release. With this knowledge, the Foo Fighters have striven to re-evaluate and develop their own identity in a much more dynamic manner. It stands as an unprecedented musical move, but one that is bridging a significant gulf between old and new generations of the rock genre. Additionally, this entire process has been documented on their 8-week HBO mini-series of the same name. This album is in its essential form very much a work for the fans: for fans of the Foo and for any true music fan with a genuine appreciation for the art.
As the needle hits the wax, the album opens in true Foo Fighters style, hot and heavy, with the first track “Something From Nothing” which chronicles the history of blues and punk in Chicago. This same style continues through to the next track, “The Feast and the Famine”. Recorded in Washington, D.C., this track truly exemplifies the goal of the album in documenting the historical narrative of America’s music industry; it is directly inspired by the Civil Rights Movement in Washington and the ways in which this event was sonically memorialized within different genres of the time. It is one of the strongest singles of the record, and will undoubtedly go down as one of the Foo Fighter’s greatest hits. The album continues through, changing pace to capture country, folk, and gospel scenes through tracks such as “Congregation” and “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness” which were inspired by the cities of Nashville and Austin, respectively. Towards the latter half of Sonic Highways the album features a selection of slower, smoother tracks which are still filled with the raw, intimate edge of Foo Fighter tradition. These tracks include “Outside”, featuring a radical guitar collaboration with Joe Walsh who is only one of many notable guests on the album; “In The Clear”, and “Subterranean” which were individually enlightened by visits to Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Seattle; and “I Am The River”, hailing from New York and standing strong as the final track on the album, which gives a resoundingly powerful conclusion to the intricate and masterful compilation that is Sonic Highways.
The Foo Fighters have managed to research their influences, explore their dynasties, and incorporate them into their music in a way that, while doing justice to the artists they are giving an ode to, still holds on to the classic Foo fashion we have grown to know and love. Even through moments where the true sound of the band is difficult to find, it is only to further pay homage to the previous artists who have paved their way. Is it the most adventurous or innovative addition to the band’s personal sound? Arguably not. But it sits in a significant spot, transcending many musical boundaries and traditions, not only for the Foo Fighters but for the rock genre and music history as a whole. Sonic Highways is picking up what has been lost in the past, and helping preserve it for the future.
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