Walking into an album with a concept as complex and lofty as that of Foo Fighters’ latest, ‘Sonic Highways’, was always going to be tough. Yet somehow, some way - and maybe it’s just because they’re Foo Fighters - they pull it off.
Not only is their eighth album to date going to be released as a regular, run-of-the-mill album, it has its own eight-episode HBO television series as a companion. There have been trailers, previews, tiny shows and residencies on late night US television, and all in the name of preparing fans for the journey that the band went on to make it.
“This is a musical map of America,” says Dave Grohl boldy, in the trailer for the band’s forthcoming series. There’s not a hint of insincerity in his voice as he says it: that’s because it is, at least to some degree, the truth. Recorded in eight cities across the US, all of which lay claim to a certain part of the band’s collective heart, ‘Sonic Highways’ is an album which attempts to reflect the musical styles, influences and inspirations of each city and it does, in some respects, succeed.
Granted, the task they set up for themselves was more difficult than first considered: how does a band manage to make an album that channels rock, funk, the blues, hardcore, country, hip hop, go-go and punk all while still making a record that sounds like their own? Foo Fighters knew the potential pitfalls but they weren’t to stop them. There’s a nuance here, a guitar tone there. Inviting Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick to play on opener ‘Something From Nothing’ wasn’t just their fanboy dreams coming true, it saw them bring the song a whole new dimension and spirit, even for just one solo.
Each song on the record stands as its own vignette – its own Foos-tinged ode to the city they were staying in at the time - but together, the tracks very much make a whole. Go into this album unknowing and unaware, ‘Sonic Highways’ is still a Foo Fighters record, but dare to delve a little deeper and there’s a wealth of musical treasure to unearth. Foo Fighters are providing the map, it’s up to the audience to explore. Therein lies its beauty.