Following the March death of long-time drummer Taylor Hawkins, where they would go next was a tentative but massive question that needed answering. And after a pair of glorious and moving tribute shows in LA and London that September, it was clear the future for Foo Fighters was going to be difficult, but it would exist.
After much anticipation and rumour, they resurfaced earlier this year with “Rescued”. A rousing return, the energy remains as ever with Foo Fighters, palpable. Even as the melancholy strings together this new chapter, the band are embarking on this new journey with the framework of their trademark gargantuan rock sound firmly in tow. With the spectre of loss, as expected, lingering throughout the album – even down to the ferocity of Dave Grohl helming drums for the first time since their 1995 self-titled debut – But Here We Are is a powerful soundtrack packed with overcoming and resilience.
These concepts are, for better or for worse, the shadows that have followed Grohl for most of his life. Turning the 1994 loss of Kurt Cobain into his dominating second chapter, after embarking on a project that had all the odds stacked against him, Foo Fighters place at the top of the rock hierarchy remains untouched, and they’re back once more doing what they do best – getting on with it.
Where latter day Foos found themselves in the treads of their own
making – following familiar patterns with little to no regard to
anything around them but having a blast as a group of friends – But Here We Are
feels different. It’s weightier. It’s open to suggestion, and, more
importantly, it feels focussed – even if that is driven mostly by the
somber tonality of death and the inevitability of it all.
Throughout, an aging Grohl reckons with much, including the loss that follows life’s linear narrative (“The Glass”). He embraces it, he questions it, but most importantly he isn’t letting it stop him being the face of rock music in the twenty first century. He relishes in the idea of us all needing help (“Rescued”), or parental guidance (“The Teacher”), and the vacancy loss can leave (“Nothing At All”) and holds these concepts dear. It’s unabashed and at times experiments with its delivery. It uses the chaos loss and hurt can evoke and turns them into distorted segues or an emphasised dynamic range. “The Teacher” is a studious 10-minute expression – the longest Foos have delivered on record to date – that is Grohl reckoning with the loss of his mother. There’s playful moments beneath the heftier words too. “Under You” has the same light-footed riff as “Monkey Wench” but at a more lumbering pace to keep in the same field as the rest of the grand rock statement pieces.
The blindingly white artwork is the sparsest they’ve had; a heavenly-looking pronouncement of But Here We Are‘s contents. As a whole it’s a fine addition to the Foo Fighters catalogue – but that’s not the point of this album. Their courageous, celebrated heyday is scattered through out the twentieth and twenty first centuries (1997’s Color and The Shape, and 2011’s Wasting Light being benchmarks), and no one’s expecting them to top these (though it does indeed come close). Instead, this is a reminder that the Foo fighters are a band bigger than any individual member – including Grohl. They’re a rock band that, even when the going gets tough, know that there’s a job to do and there’s no better way to deal with life than throwing together some ringing chords and belting the dark clouds away.
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