Sonic Highways by The Foo Fighters

Sonic HighwaysSonic Highways

The Foo Fighters

Every Foo Fighters album is different from the last. There Is Nothing Left to Lose is where the modern incarnation of the band, minus guitarists Chris Shifflet and Pat Smear, sprang into being. One by One found the Foos becoming the richest garage band in the world, literally recording the album in Dave Grohl’s garage. In Your Honor nailed down the Foos signature sound and added an acoustic side to it. Echoes, Patience, Silence, and Grace focused on the songwriting. Wasting Light got back to the garage band roots with a little help from Nirvana’s Krist Novocelic and Husker Du’s Bob Mould.

After each tour, Dave Grohl says the latest album might be their last. After Wasting Light, social media was all abuzz that the Foos had broken up. Grohl was making documentaries. Shifflet, bassist Nate Mendel, and drummer Taylor Hawkins were off doing other projects. Even Pat Smear, whom Grohl had to lure gradually back into the band after he left in 1998, was off doing other things. What the Twitters and the Facey Pages and the Reddits failed to notice that the Foos always said that, then would get together to see if the old magic was still there. If it was, there’d be a new album. If it wasn’t, they would rather leave the body of work they’d build since they were Dave Grohl by himself in the studio.

Obviously, the magic’s still there as the band draws its inspiration from lesser known studios where some of the most groundbreaking music of the last fifty years has been recorded. While there are hints of those early Grohl-only songs on some of the tracks, the Foos are very smooth, playing in different registers and adopting more prominent guitar work than in the past. Before, the Foos tended to play more rhythm-based songs. Some of this is a function of guest appearances by Joe Walsh and Zac Brown.

Some of the original Foo sound comes from “The Feast and the Famine,” which features Grohl’s former bandmates from Scream, Pete Stahl and Skeeter Thompson. (Stahl’s brother Franz was a Foo Fighter for a time in the late nineties.) But Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins have been rather vocal about the Beatles of late, and it shows in “Something from Nothing” and the McCartneyesque medley “What Did I Do/God As My Witness.” No one will mistake either song for McCartney, but no one can miss the influence. The band even dabbles in progressive rock techniques, using odd rhythm and key changes in “Subterranean.”

It’s hard to figure out what the Foos can do next to keep things fresh. Then again, they never know. That’s why they’ve had such a good run so far.