Concrete is used to build strong foundations. It is resilient, but not flexible. Once set, it can’t be easily moved or changed. Gold is sought after and used to determine commercial value. In the music industry, gold is used to certify half a million records sold. Foo Fighters’ aptly titled ninth album, Concrete and Gold, is about what you’d expect: mainstream, commercial, classic rock, pure and simple. I’m sure many are very happy with it, while others are bored with it. Some, perhaps are taking this opportunity to rip the band, Grohl and everyone that might stand in the way to shreds. But for me, it’s somewhere in the middle of the road and I guess that’s. . . fine. There isn’t anything wrong with the album, per se, but I guess I’d like to see them take advantage of their status to push the boundaries a little more.
On the opening track “T-Shirt,” Grohl sings “I don’t wanna be king/I just wanna sing a love song/Pretend there’s nothing wrong/You can sing along with me.” This is a good summary for the whole album, in spite of Grohl’s overstated description of this being “Motörhead’s version of Sgt. Pepper” or “Slayer making Pet Sounds.” Perhaps if they had gone a little further in either direction, they could’ve accomplished that feat. As it is, these are just solid, straightforward rock songs that go back and forth between sweet, lush harmonies and full throttle thrashing, sometimes in the same song. But we’ve heard that kind of thing before. It all comes across much safer than it needs to, and doesn’t really deliver on the extreme dynamic Grohl described.
For a band that has nothing to prove, it’s a little disappointing that they didn’t take bigger risks musically or lyrically on this album. The production is a little too clean. A few more rough edges here and there wouldn’t be a bad thing. Neither would a little trimming across the board, as many of the songs have at least one chorus too many. Still, when they go heavier, as on “Run,” “La Dee Da,” or “Make it Right,” it’s hard to resist the adrenaline pump. Foo Fighters do know how to make arena rock. Meanwhile, songs like “Arrows” or “Sunday Rain”, which features drummer Taylor Hawkins on vocals and Paul McCartney on drums for some reason, while somewhat basic, they both have an understated groove that gives the album a nice overall flow. So it’s not like the material is bad. I’m sure they’ll have another gold or platinum record here, but the concrete maybe needs to crack a bit.
It all comes down to what you want out of your music. If you’re looking to be shaken by things you’ve never heard before, then maybe Foo Fighters was never the band for you, and this album won’t change that. However, if you just want some standard rock songs following classic mainstream traditions, then there’s really no way to not give them credit here for delivering that. Concrete and Gold has just enough of an edge to keep it entertaining, but only if you leave your cynicism at the door.