The best clue to what makes Foo Fighters’ eighth studio album such a great listen comes from the title of the band’s second album that came out in 1997 – The Colour And The Shape.
For Sonic Highways Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear, Nate Mendell and Taylor Hawkins gave the album shape by limiting it to eight songs about their eight favourite cities in US – Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington DC.
They gave the album colour by writing and recording each of the eight songs in one of the aforementioned cities – letting the literal and conceptual flavours of each city seep into the songs which, somewhat oxymoronically for a themed album, has resulted in each song being desperately unique and untied to any other song on the record.
Opening song, Something From Nothing,begins super chill with Grohl almost whispering the opening lines, ‘Give me the flammable life/I’m cold as a match ready to strike/So here I go’. Then, at exactly 30 seconds in, the song takes shape and builds, building again and again before ending on frantic rock-out only that Grohl and co. can do without sounding like effigies of the calmer soft rock band that began this song. This song was written about Chicago, with this info gleaned from watching the eight-part documentary series the band is releasing part by part online. However, the references to the river – The Chicago River – and the ‘cold as a match’ indicated the song was about a northern US city with a river running through it.
The standout track from the album is Outside. Driven by icy guitar and a huge chorus this is sure to be fan favourite. Due to the balls-out nature of the rock’n’roll in this song it appears to be the track inspired by Los Angeles.
The final song of the album, I Am A River, is an impressive farewell for an excellent album. Similar to the way the album begins, I Am A River has three parts to it. From a deep organ that’s caressed by a slightly picked guitar, to the effortless pre-chorus this song has all the best parts of Foo Fighters with a little bit of extra depth.