Trailblazing a distinct chronological spate of significant releases coming out throughout June and July—including Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Far From Saints, Killer Mike, Queens of the Stone Age, Dominic Fike, and George Clanton—the mighty Foo Fighters are back. This time scathed. Dropping this past Friday 2nd June, But Here We Are counts as the alternative rock mainstays’s eleventh studio LP—their first since the untimely death of their longtime drummer Taylor Hawkins, early last year. The project comes orchestrated and arranged by returning production consigliere Greg Kurstin, whose royal pop knack and undeniable chemistry with the band made him an obvious choice for such a critical artistic statement in the group’s timeline, even after the mixed bag success collected in the wake of his work on both 2017’s Concrete and Gold as well as 2021’s Medicine at Midnight.
Unsurprisingly, and perhaps fittingly, frontman Dave Grohl traveled back to handling percussive duties on the whole record, marking his first official drum credit on a Foos album in almost twenty years. Not only that, the stickman-turned-ringleader also saw fit to lace a familial spin into the recording process for the first time, inviting his 17-year-old daughter Violet to sing prominent background vocals on the hazy, hollow, and dreamy “Show Me How“—the formidable third single in the lead up to the full album. Unveiled a mere seven days before the entire collection of songs, the track eerily journeys through plateaus of both reverb canvasses and gnarly distorted licks alike, before unboxing an unexpected sense of finality woven into the narrator’s bounce-back arc: “I’ll take care of everything / I’ll take care of everything from now on“.
In the album’s relatively packed and crammed promo roll out, said slow tempo number was preceded initially by the stark and stoic lead single “Rescued” (released on 19th April), as well as the gold-striking throwback grunge belter “Under You” around a month later. Both cuts carry a musical ethos that translates as an earnest return to form for the Seattle-gestated band. Raw and unfiltered aches of grief bleed through the somewhat low-fidelity taped instrumentation on the former, only to be snapped out of their emotional stalemate by two robust sets of verses with lots and lots of teeth (“It came in a flash, it came outta nowhere / It happened so fast, and then it was over; I fell in a trap, my hеart’s getting colder / It’s coming on fast, it’s over my shouldеr“). Conversely, But Here We Are‘s sophomore single triumphs in its catchy, anthemic, and heavily Hüsker Dü-indebted refrain, all the while lodging slews of nostalgic sonic moods that were first successfully forayed into as part of Dave’s inspired first three album run (1995-1999).
Hardly earning enough grandfathered rights to be considered an official single, the RCA Records-affiliates released a final teaser a few days before the arrival of the full length in the form of the 10-minute epic fever dream “The Teacher“. Sequenced as the album’s penultimate cut, before the unplugged, jagged, and forlorn coda “Rest“, the song unfolds and crumbles before the listener’s ears by way of proxying obsessive and thick stanzas atop of an unhinged baseline jam impetus, the latter ultimately binding the whole herculean effort together. It’s indulgent, inconclusive, and far from the most memorable moment on this thing—once again, definitely not single material. Yet this exploit’s biggest merit, standing as the Foo Fighters’ longest recorded track to date, is to allegorize the loose and unconstrained ethos that served as the album’s through line on here, whilst its constituent human parts rebuilt themselves amidst junctures of grief and mourning.
Aside from the aforementioned first two promo cuts, the record’s side A sports quite a lot more to write home about. At number three on the tracklist is “Hearing Voices“, a groovier and more contemplative affair wholly anchored by Grohl’s helpless cries, lamenting whatever part of letting go of someone who’s no longer there somehow still involves unfulfilled promises—in all likelihood reaching for a hybridized and spiritualized pastiche version of both Hawkins and his late mother Virginia (who passed away mere months after the drummer last year): “I’ve seen you in the moon / I wish that you were here / You promised me your words / A whisper in my ear / Every night I tell myself nothing like you could last forever“. The album title track follows suit, with its impervious and claustrophobic gain six-string riffs, pummeling a sense of utter paranoia and unsettlement into the track’s otherwise conventional late Foo Fighters formula. Dave Grohl’s soaring vocals reach husky heights rarely heard on a deep cut before, especially with such a quasi-psychedelic drawl, spookily adding to the tune’s disorienting sentence.
Wrapping up side A is perhaps the poppiest and most sanitized cut on the whole thing: “The Glass“. Flexing evident Concrete and Gold muscles on the peppy beat and flow front (cue “The Sky Is A Neighborhood“), the song does stick out a little bit like a sterilized thumb amidst the sea of musical roughness and lyrical rawness found elsewhere on the project. Don’t get it twisted, it’s far from the worst thing the Foos have ever put out, but the sensation it would’ve felt much more at home on any of their previous two LPs is one to not be easily shaken off—even after repeated listens. But Here We Are‘s flip side picks up strong again with “Nothing at All“, a Frankenstein’d power pop voyage starting off all but approachable and sticky, before completely transforming into an abrasive and savage chorus wave wholly obliterating the previously collected brownie points with casual listeners.
The aforementioned gorgeous ballad “Show Me How” follows on the tracklist at number seven, before deep feels continue to run at full steam thanks to the subsequent “Beyond Me“; an austere and truthful slice of emotional rock and roll, doubling as perhaps the most beautiful track on the record. “If it all just went away / Would you be kind? / Would you be so kind?; Are you well? / I can’t tell / Do tell / Do tell“, asks the former Nirvana percussionist, in a custom and manner that is so believable it hurts. “The Teacher” and “Rest” end the 48-minute runtime listening experience on a somewhat weaker note, although not less honest or compelling. More in particular, the latter cut’s second half suddenly photosynthesizes into a haunting and unsettling wall of distorted sound around the 2:40 mark, moonlighting as the farewell sendoff to this album’s dedicated dearly departed, and anyone else in the listeners’ minds for that matter: “Rest, you can rest now / Rest, you will be safe now“.
Safe to say with But Here We Are the Foo Fighters have made their best set of cohesive songs since Wasting Light. More than a decade and a pandemic later, and one core member down, they attested once again that resilience and defiance are two key ingredients in their raison d’être, whether they like it or not. If nothing else, they both have proven to be powering some of their best and most existential songwriting. With a set of ten new songs under their belts, and after having put to rest most rumors around seeking closure in order to move past their recent hardships by announcing celebrity session drummer Josh Freese (of Devo, Guns N’ Roses, and Nine Inch Nails fame) as Hawkins replacement, Dave, Nate, Pat, Chris, and Rami finally seem ready to move on and go back to being the biggest arena rock band on the planet. To do the easy part, in other words.
We’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and we hope to feel your interest again next time.
BUT HERE WE ARE
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