Sonic Highways review by Foo Fighters

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  • Released: Nov 10, 2014
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.1 (111 votes)
Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways
6

Sound — 9
Dave Grohl's voice and screams still being awesome and impressive, even with 20 years of career with the Foo Fighters, and the band still sounding strong, hard and rocky, as the Foos typical sound. The sound changes in each song, because each one is recorded in one different studio in a different city, with the same producer (Butch Vig), but different taste of sound. 8 songs, 8 cities, 8 studios. Stronger in Chicago, Washington and L.A. songs and more quiet but still hard in Nashville, New Orleans, Seattle.

Lyrics — 10
All the lyrics are based in experiences lived by musicians and influent people and told to Grohl and the Foos in the interviews they did on the 8 cities they've visited for recording the album (Chicago, Washington D.C., Nashville, Austin, L.A., New Orleans, New York and Seattle), and they have some of the essence of each city, with references to musicians, history of the city, etc.

Maybe they had could had risked more, including in their songs the style of each city (Chicago's blues, Washington's go-go, Austin's boogie...) but as Grohl said in the third episode of the HBO series "Sonic Highways":

"The studio, the city, the history, the barbecue... They were wearing cowboy hats and playing leads that "sound like they came from 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.' I need the Foos to strike a balance between being influenced by the city and staying true to who the band is."

Overall Impression — 9
The "hits" of this album (for me) are: "Something From Nothing," "Congregation," "Outside" and "Feast and the Famine," in that order. I'll talk about the best song in the album in my impression: "Something From Nothing" was released as the first single and first song of the album and reminds you the Dio's influence in Grohl's music style, with a little "reference" of "Holy Diver"'s riff in "Something From Nothing"'s verse, and it's the best song in the album, with a fiery and mind-blowing Grohl's scream at the end of the song: "ALL RISE!

The "worst" song for me is "Subterranean," because it's not in the line of the other 7 songs of the record. The other 3 songs ("What Did I Do/ God as My Witness," who has a clear Queen's "opera rock" touch, "In the Clear," recorded with the Preservation Hall Band in New Orleans, and "I Am the River," song that closes the album with an explosive chorus) are pretty, pretty good too, so I give the record a overall impression of 9, because 10 is "Wasting Light."

41 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Thrice Capades
    I remember when I once tried to post an album review on this site, but it got removed because I listed the tracks by name. Now I get paid to review albums. And I list tracks by name.
    RobFlynn_RSA
    Why do so many people bash "One by one" The album is great. Comeback is such a cool closer.
    CrazyAce#7
    I never hear people even talk about it. lol I'm not too big on the Foo's, I just think they're a solid band but that's my favorite album by them. Haha
    tom11
    Comeback is good tune. I often knock that album, but there's only two songs I really hate (Tired of You and Burn Away), I think the problem is that after the first 4 tracks there's no real stand out tune, just song solid album tracks, that album really needs a hit on track 9 or 10 like Everlong was for TCATS. The production is a bit off as well.
    BradTheBluefish
    Definitely like the series but the album is definitely mediocre. Over produced IMO as it doesn't have that rawness to the sound like they had in their earlier work. Either way it is worth a listen and the HBO series (particularly the Chicago episode and Nashville episode) is totally worth watching.
    SkilletFan77
    I think it was really refreshing to have an album like this put out by them. I love all of their albums, but I love them all for different reasons. To me, none of their albums sound alike, therefore I wouldn't expect this one to, either. It's nice to hear yet another side of them, and have music that has some real passion behind it, even if I can't relate to it. I think Congregation and I Am A River are by far my favorites, the first because of the leads, and the second because come on, anyone's gotta admit that's a great song.
    Waren
    It's a good album. Only "In The Clear" is a bit lame and uninteresting, and "Subterranean" drags on maybe a minute too long. "What Did I Do?" is a 50/50 hit or miss depending on the listener. One of the reviews said that "Feast" didn't have the go-go influence: Check the bridge of that song again, it has the typical double bass drum pattern. The rest of the songs are quite good and memorable. This is a 7/10 album for me.
    buddy1991
    I loved the album. It isn't perfect, but there aren't a lot of albums that are. I personally think they should continue with the longer songs, and more experimental structures that are featured on a couple of the songs here. The Foo Fighters as a progressive rock band would be amazing. There's only a few hints at it here, but I think they should really go for it in the future. I found most of the reviews here to be decent, even if I didn't agree with some of them. But the review that stated that they only listen to the Foo Fighters for the "chorus"... One of the worst reviews I've ever read for an album. I also can't take anyone serious if they only listen to a band for the "chorus."
    benthegrunge
    foo fighters aim to write hits, in other words. grohl has said himself that he believes in 'don't bore us get to the chorus'and this is evident through his career. Fair enough though
    buddy1991
    Sounds like you have taken that video a little too seriously. It was a joke.
    benthegrunge
    i could say that the band has great riffs, drumming and spare, tasteful production for what they are, but i don't think its outrageous to say that the choruses made foo fighters popular, that's why more 12 year olds know times like these than good grief or hey johnny park. That's why your mum knows best of you, and for me that's a main thing that seperates sonic highways from older stuff. its not a controversial opinion, and its not the same as 'listening to a band purely for choruses'. I'm saying their previous work is notable for anthemic choruses (among other things) and this release doesn't measure up in that regard, its tough to argue with
    StevenPace
    My internet got shut off because I downloaded the album. Then I see Dave saying it is ok? I have to call suddenlink.
    GR84
    Honestly, this is quickly becoming my favorite Foo record. The more i listen to it, the more i discover! No, it doesnt have the anthems, how many anthems do you need? To me this is a more mature, more adventurous record, that will reward more and more listens through the days and years
    psaxby
    I absolutely love the Foo Fighters and think they are one of the best bands around at the moment, but unfortunately this album isn't really doing it for me. Maybe we have been so lucky with all of the other recent albums and this couldn't live up to the hype. To me this album seems a bit rushed and the concept potentially didn't really work or maybe the concept was to record in so many different places as they didn't have time to actually sit down and record something new. All in all this all just means the next album will definitely be the "one"
    jgsb2001
    Great album - but I think it is best to listen without watching the show. I watched the first three episodes and found that knowing where exactly the lyrics came from made making a personal connection a little tougher. This was confirmed for me upon listening to the last five songs without the influence of the show. Other than that, the music is outstanding and is a big step forward in song writing for the Foos. I'm not sure what the UG reviewer meant by the album lacking a focus, but it seems rather obvious that the lyrics and music have a focus based on the show alone. Even without the show it's clear that the Foos where after a bigger, more epic sounding album (orchestra, longer songs). The song titles and order seem to even tell a story (i.e. are focused).
    Holoogamooga
    I can agree with this. I haven't seen the show, but the opener lost a lot of its appeal once I read what the lyrics were about. Same thing happened with Rush's Clockwork Angels. Reading the companion novel simultaneously gave more meaning to and removed meaning from each song on that album.
    mattjamesrenn
    Not the biggest Foos fan will admit their music is pretty fun though but I actually enjoy this album, listened to it while doing the dishes and realise it has some pretty sweet moments.
    nep61
    I've listened to the entire album at least a dozen times now... I do a lot of 2 hour drives. I've watched the HBO series as well. No, it's not the Foo's best work, but I really like the album. It's just catchy rock and roll with a slight punk attitude - simple as that. The HBO a series could have easily been 2 hours per episode. Pedestrian lyrics, heavy guitars, starts and stops, the songs aren't that bad. Is it earth shattering? No. Is it Dark Side of the Moon? No. I know what I like, and this is a decent effort on Dave's part.... The Foos rock, and I will be going to one of the Sonic Highway tour dates.
    juan.pata28
    documentary my ass!! Songs should be great by itself, not because of the story behind them
    Sloan7
    I gotta agree with some of the more negative reviews. When I listened to the album I heard three guitars playing the same thing for the most part with three tracks of Dave's voice stacked on top of each other, but then for about 30 seconds, there was something in the songs that pulled me in.
    metallicafan85
    I am an avid Foo Fighters fan, but i have to say this is just like Wasting light disc 2 in my opinion, With the exception of "outside" nothing really stands out. Not bad, just more of the same. Way too hyped. That's just me.
    vikkyvik
    I attribute this to me watching the show before hearing the songs. I heard the snippets he used, and now have the context each phrase was used in. It all ends up being completely disjointed. In the case of the first three albums, the lyrics might have been just as meaningless, but I didn't have any context for them so I was able to interpret them as I wanted. Thank you for this. You actually just explained a lot of my dislike of the lyrics. I really don't like using words like this in reference to music, but "contrived" springs to mind. I mean, how much can you learn about a city and its music by spending a few days/weeks there recording a song? The "Sonic Highways" documentary episodes barely can scratch the surface. So yeah, it's quite unfortunate in a way that we were invited to see the inspiration and/or direct source of some of those lyrics.
    benthegrunge
    'contrived' is the perfect word, this becomes a big problem for most bands that've been going a long time and have a very established identity
    Shredder666
    I really liked the concept behind this album and I've been watching the HBO specials. I was really pumped after hearing "Something From Nothing" and I decided to buy the album. I know everyone loves Grohl.. it's hard not to considering how awesome of a guy he is. But let's get real. The hype for this album was tremendous.. Grohl made it sound like the most epic thing he'd be releasing. When you actually listen to the album, is it really that special or different from other albums? No. Not really. I heard more layers (more instruments) and an effort on one or two songs to really go out of their comfort zone, but overall the Foos disappointed me. Dave Grohl comes across as the saviour of rock n roll in the media, and I love reading about how passionate he is, but it's times like these that affirm that he is a little overrated at times. I bought this album at the same time as I bought "The Endless River" by Pink Floyd. I had heavy expectations for Sonic Highways and no expectations from the Endless River. Sadly, the Floyd album was much better, even though it was mainly recycled material from 20 years ago :/
    connor494
    I'm surprised no ones said more on the lyrical side of the album. I thought the music to it all was pretty awesome and the album would have been far greater had the lyrics been drastically improved. The idea of how they wrote them really works on something from nothing and feast and the famine but after that becomes so lazy. For example in the clear has this line " There are times I feel like givin' in There are times I begin to begin again" and i'm a massive fan of the Foo Fighters but that has to be some of the worst lyrics i have heard in a song and thats just one example.
    Sloan7
    Awesome show though! As far as the album goes, the writing just wasn't there.
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    Halcyonic_Alex
    I listened to the first couple of tracks off this album the other night and I gotta say it's really enjoyable to me personally. I can hear a lot of their influences in the songs, in particular: Dio and The Who. Can't wait to give the album a thorough listen through