Sonic Highways: A disappointingly mediocre reveal

IN 2011, Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters released Wasting Light, arguably their best effort since 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. Wasting Light gave fans of Foo Fighters something new; it was heavy, fast, at times experimental and always interesting. Now, three years later, they have accepted the challenge of following up this creative little monster. The newest edition to the Foo Fighters catalogue is this year’s release Sonic Highways and the first question that sprung to mind was obvious: could the Seattle band possibly produce something as good as they did in 2011, and would they follow the pattern that they created with that album?

FFSHSonic Highways starts off promisingly for all those who enjoyed the bands previous efforts. The first three tracks on the album are all fairly fast paced songs that start off slowly, but quickly picks up speed and are best summarized as solid pop-rock tracks with a couple of interesting riffs here and there. The first problem with the album arises with track number four; What Did I Do?/God As My Witness. This is essentially two tracks, but they are placed together because of similarities so obvious that it would sound slightly ridiculous if they were to take up the space of two separate tracks. The whole song in itself is 5.43 minutes long, and when the first half (What Did I Do?) ends the general feeling is positive. However, then God As My Witness kicks in. This half of the track is as preachy as the title indicates and Dave Grohl – boss and frontman of Foo Fighters and founding member of Nirvana – has created too many good songs to allow himself to release this. This track truly is a nose-dive moment; at the time of listening, it feels like surely there can be no return after this. Lyrically it becomes comically painful, and it doesn’t help that sound-wise the band unsuccessfully tries to copy Queen.

Somehow, though, Grohl and company found a way back.

After a catastrophically bad fourth track, Foo Fighters miraculously save the day with track number five, simply entitled Outside. This song is heavy, melodic and intriguing. It’s the only song on the album that has a distinct dark feel to it, and it remains the only stand-out song. From here on out Sonic Highways continues in a standard pop-rock style, with no particular lows and certainly no highs.

The main problem of this album is the lack of originality. Whereas the band tried something new on Wasting Light, they now appear to have decided to go back to the safe formula of standard four-minute pop-rock songs. There is simply not enough to get excited about here, but on the plus side, with the exception of the second half of track four, the album does not contain any bad songs. As an album it flows very well, it has a theme that it refuses to step away from and the track-placing makes sense. All in all this is a safe, all-around good (but not great) effort from a band that is capable of doing a lot better. Had this been released by a lesser band it would probably have been considered a better album, however, this is Foo Fighters and we’re allowed to expect a bit more.