Street Sounds: The Travelling Foos

For their eighth album, Sonic Highways, Foo Fighters recorded in eight different studios and cities across America.

For their eighth album, Sonic Highways, Foo Fighters recorded in eight different studios and cities across America in a search for sounds and inspiration.

The band’s manifesto is to shed light on what is becoming a lost art – to tap into creativity through rooms and spaces where recordings have soaked up sound over the years.

It’s an honourable undertaking and an honest reaction to the faceless star making machine of the corporate driven side of the music industry.

Although they’re a drummer driven band (front man Dave Grohl is the former Nirvana skinsman, among others) being produced by a drummer (Butch Vig), the Foos bring a ringing wall of melody and chiming guitars to their rolling rhythm quest.

The two characters merge to form a new model sound of heavy post 1970s’ West Coast California rock. This is due to the upswing of the music’s force and the slight hint of psychedelia in the textures.

The band and Vig paid attention to hidden harmonics as well as atmosphere.

Grohl and Foo Fighters usually display a grand gesture at some point in a recording.  In The Clear has wide melodic sweeps and dramatic chord patterns as does Outside, which rages and falls back, à la Grohl’s old band.

The group reveals itself to be intuitive texturalists. Guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear add moody layers and haunting solos to the long distance songs.

The album’s drawing card is the atmosphere that coasts along with the tracks. There’s solid force to the arrangements (Something From Nothing) and it’s enhanced by the strong melodic presence throughout. Tracks like Subterranean are a study in contrast: hazy vibe and tight performances. God as My Witness does the same thing by framing an epic song with a face full of ambiance that highlights the passion in the delivery. They’re looking for the spark.

Dean Gordon-Smith is an Okanagan-based musician who reviews new music releases for The Mroning Star every Friday.