When I read the press release announcing that Foo Fighters’ ninth album would be their attempt to make “Motorhead’s version of Sgt. Pepper…or something like that” alarm bells began to ring. The additional news that producer Greg Kurstin (known for his work with Adele, Sia and Pink) had been heavily involved added to my sense of foreboding. Still, the mash of pop and rock sensibilities can yield amazing results; Swedish Hardcore band Refused employed producer Shellback on their last album, who is best known for co-writing the likes of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and the results were and are breathtaking. On that basis, I strove to keep an open mind upon listening to Concrete and Gold.
Sadly from the very start of the album it became abundantly clear that this was not going to be a great work of rock genius, rather, this is a bloated and over-produced record with a bizarrely inconsistent tone and pretty much zero fresh ideas. A number of the tracks including lead single Run feature the juxtaposition of screamed lead vocals with soft harmonies and swelling pop chords, a technique that might work with a better arrangement and more bite to the production, but the meticulous overuse of reverb and general sheen of the tone on Concrete and Gold takes any possible edge out of the harsh vocals leaving a really odd overall vibe, as though Chino Morino has somehow been locked in a cupboard during the recording of a rock opera.
Such tracks that have any discernible character appear to be pilfering it wholesale from a variety of rock luminaries; Make It Right borrows liberally from the Aerosmith school of song-writing, drenched in tedious vocal harmonies and cheesy lyrics about ‘trains to nowhere’, while Arrows sounds like a Queens of the Stone Age B-side, minus the unusual tuning and sleazy blues tone that makes their music interesting. Weirdest of all, Sunday Rain recalls the tedium of Be Here Now-era Oasis. At least the Gallaghers had the excuse of being so coked up they can’t even remember recording that album.
By the time I reached the plodding finale of the title track I was ready to never hear Concrete and Gold again. Overblown dross from a band that appear to have forgotten what made the likes of The Colour and The Shape so compelling.
Concrete and Gold was released via Columbia Records on 15th September.