by Dillon Meehan
Following the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the band’s drummer, Dave Grohl, started a solo project in Seattle dubbed the Foo Fighters. Twenty years, seven albums and eleven Grammy awards later, Grohl’s solo project has turned into this generation’s greatest rock act.
On Nov. 10, the Foo Fighters released their eighth studio album aptly titled Sonic Highways. Grohl, the band’s lead singer, songwriter and guitarist came up with the idea to record the album in eight different studios across eight different cities: Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington D.C.
A crew from HBO followed the band on its trip across the country to create a docu-series titled Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways. “This is a love letter to the history of American music,” said Grohl. Grohl interviewed the city’s local musicians and used their statements for lyrics in the album.
The idea was ambitious, however ambition does not always translate to success. The band first traveled to Chicago, the blues capital of the country, to team up with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and release their first single “Something From Nothing.” The song tells the story of blues guitar legend, Buddy Guy, using buttons on strings to make guitars. The song is set in traditional Foo Fighters form, with slow verses with a fast and heavy chorus.
The band then traveled to D.C.: the home of the 80’s punk-rock movement, to record “The Feast and the Famine,” a high-octane rocker that sounds as though it belongs in the Foo Fighters’ previous album, Wasting Light.
Eagle’s guitarist Joe Walsh is featured in the song “Outside.” The song was recorded in an old house-turned studio in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The episode featured Pat Smear, the band’s rhythm guitarist, describing the LA music scene and how teenagers would head out to the desert to party and perform.
However, the album as a whole falls short. Aside from the first couple of songs, the guests are nothing more than backing musicians. Because of this the songs simply can’t hit their mark.
Zac Brown’s voice and guitar goes unnoticed in “Congregation,” and New Orleans’ own Preservation Hall Jazz Band sound is abandoned after the beginning of “In the Clear.”
Austin’s Gary Clark Jr. is featured on “What Did I Do? / God as My Witness” the double song is an attempt to make a bombastic record, but it simply misses its mark, like the majority of the songs.
Sonic Highways is ambitious enough to generate hype and build a TV show around. However, the songs are almost all structured the same way, using the same slow then fast style that has made the Foo Fighters so great. While on its own this isn’t a knock against the album or the band, the album simple falls short of what is was hyped up to be.