Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways: What You Need To Know
What's the background?
After the tour for their last album - 2011's Wasting Light, recorded in frontman Dave Grohl's basement using only analogue equipment – Grohl announced the band's intention to take an extended break before beginning work on any new material. However, Grohl is notoriously restless and by 2013 he was already talking about Foo Fighters' next project.
In a sense, Sonic Highways continues in the same vein as Wasting Light, at least in terms of wanting to experiment with recording in different ways, only this time around the idea was much grander than that behind its predecessor.
Accompanied by an HBO documentary series detailing the recording process, Sonic Highways consists of eight new tracks, each recorded in a different studio in eight different cities across America, with the new songs laid down in Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, New York, New Orleans, Seattle and Washington D.C. For each recording, Grohl apparently left the lyric-writing as late as possible in order to try and soak up some of the atmosphere of each city and translate some of that into the songs.
Who's producing it?
As with Wasting Light, Butch Vig is manning the controls in each of the eight different studios, co-producing along with Grohl and the band. For those who don't know, Grohl's relationship with Vig dates back to his Nirvana days , when the producer oversaw the Seattle trio's all-conquering 1991 sophomore album, Nevermind.
Any special guests?
Quite a few, actually. Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen contributes guitars to opening track and lead single 'Something From Nothing', Gary Clark Jr. adds additional guitar work to 'What Did I Do? / God As My Witness' and Joe Walsh also contributes his handy fretwork on 'Outside'. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard also appears on the new LP, adding guitar and vocals to 'Subterranean', while Joan Jett performs guitar duties on 'I Am A River'. Elsewhere there are appearances from longtime collaborator Rami Jaffee and New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band, adding a variety of instruments to 'In the Clear'.
What are the standout tracks?
Opener 'Something For Nothing' is a strong start, even if the pre-chorus riff does borrow heavily from Dio's 'Holy Diver', while its immediate follow-up 'The Feast and The Famine' wouldn't sound out of place alongside some of the band's earliest work, which is no bad thing.
Other standouts include 'What Did I Do / Gos As My Witness' and the closing track 'I Am A River', but with only eight tracks to choose from any fat has already been well and truly trimmed, leaving a short but pretty strong collection of new songs.
Does it deliver?
Sonic Highways is by no means a radical departure in terms of the Foo Fighters' sound, which will no doubt please the band's legion of loyal fans, but each track does have its own unique ambience and taken as a whole it's almost like a cross section of everything the band has done thus far.
Conceived as an audio-visual project, Sonic Highways is pretty ambitious, but Grohl & Co. have pulled it off here; the album in its own right is just as strong as Wasting Light – considered a return to from by most fans – and the documentary series offers not only a fascinating insight into the inner workings of a band in the studio, but also a sense of each city's musical heritage, courtesy of a huge range of musical icons from Dolly Parton to Willie Nelson. All in all, it's pretty impressive.
Sonic Highways will be available in hmv stores and to download from Monday November 10th.