In the long promotional buildup to the Foo Fighters’ new album, Sonic Highways, lead singer Dave Grohl touted his band’s revolutionary new recording approach: “… we are going to make this album in a way that no one’s ever done before,” he told NME last summer. The band recorded eight songs in eight of America’s most mythic music cities (New Orleans, D.C., Seattle, etc.), recruiting area music luminaries to join their cause in the name of expanding the Fighters’ sound with reverence and deference to the rock ’n’ roll of old. They also made an HBO documentary of the whole thing. But the concept is the only way to differentiate Sonic Highways from the rest of the earnest, chugging soft-grunge the band has dependably made for two decades; if you like them, you will like this. Songs like “Congregation” and “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness” sound like “Everlong” and “My Hero” with new lyrics and are every bit as catchy, while “Outside” features an impressive, Verve-y, psychedelic blues jam of a midsection. If nothing else, the album shows the band has an unstoppable talent for redoing what they do very well over and over. But that they would wrap it all up in conceptual bombast by invoking the ghosts of music past, and endow their generic alt-rock with an inflated sense of importance, only hurts these otherwise inoffensive radio rehashes. Like Daft Punk’s overblown Random Access Memories, another late-career rock-revival “Real Music” statement, Sonic Highways promises a revolution and delivers mostly mediocrity. It is another sad example of an aging band slamming its listeners with a sledgehammer of self-superiority as a means of disguising the actual blandness of their much-heralded return. Props to the Foos for their consistency, but if rock ’n’ roll needed a multimillion-dollar retread as a revival, then perhaps this is more of an epitaph.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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