Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways is a Sonic Experience

Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways is a Sonic Experience

Garrett Wheeler, Opinions Editor

Sonic Highways is the Foo Fighters’ most ambitious project yet, for a number of reasons.

First off, there are only eight songs on the album. Second, the album covers a wide variety of genres, from hard rock to southern rock to psychedelic rock. Third, each song was written in a different city in a different state. And fourth, the band made miniseries on HBO on the process of going from city to city, recording their songs, and informing the viewer on how important music is. I have not seen the TV show yet because I don’t get HBO, but I have listened to the album.

The Foo Fighters is a band that formed in 1994, with the current lineup consisting of front-man Dave Grohl, lead guitarist Chris Shiflett, rhythm guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins, and the newest member, keyboardist Rami Jaffee. They have recorded a total of eight albums with almost 100 songs divided between them, including songs like Everlong, My Hero, and Learn to Fly.

Now, I am a huge fan of the Foo Fighters. I’m still debating on my favorite album, between The Colour and the ShapeThere is Nothing Left to Lose, and Wasting Light. So, naturally, I got super excited for Sonic Highways. It came out on November 10th, the day before Veteran’s Day and the day before my brother’s birthday, and I got a chance to listen to it, and I can confirm that this is a really solid album.

The first song on the list is Something from Nothing, the first single on the album. The song starts out quiet and just constantly grows in intensity and gets louder all the way until it’s full throttle aggression. And this song is fantastic. Like, it’s one of the best songs the Foo Fighters have ever done. The way that the melody builds up and up until it’s full rock out is very impressive. Not only that, but the instruments compliment each other really well, with lots of different layers of music. And that guitar riff is just bliss. This is truly one of their best songs, in my eyes, at least. Or should I say… ears. You know, cause it’s music. Yeah.

Next up, there’s The Feast and the Famine. This song is much more straightforward than the previous single. Instead of worrying about crescendos and stuff, this song is just fist pumping, head banging rock. And while I find the chorus to be a little on the repetitive side, this is a great song. It’s got a rockin’ melody and has some great angst in Grohl’s vocals. But, it’s the bridge and the outro where the song really shines. Both have a great sound in the music and the vocals that makes these parts shine over the rest. That is what brings this song up to greatness.

The third song on this lineup is Congregation. Unlike the first two songs, this one has a more somber, laid back feel. The instruments are more melodic and give an almost southern rock kind of feel. This vibe is a little bit more different than what they usually do, but luckily the sound really works. The song’s somber nature makes for a really powerful and emotional song, and it has a very simple, yet effective guitar riff. Not only that, but the lyrics to this song are great. They’re very poetic and get you thinking, an example being “I’ve been throwing knives to see just where they land.” It’s a lyric that really caught my ear and got me intrigued to the meaning behind the entire song. I really like the song and pretty much everything in it.

The next song on the list is actually two songs in one, called What Did I Do?/God as my Witness. The first part starts out with quiet vocals with random outbursts from the instruments. Then it turns into a very lively and cheery jam sessions with some honky-tonk inspired piano. Then it goes back to that first part and has a certain note that dramatically changes the tone of the song. Then the second half happens, which is a rather uplifting tune, in a different way. Instead of it being happy, it’s more built on raw emotion. I like this song. It has a great sound and a great feeling to it. However, I can’t help that this song feels very disjointed. The parts where the actual melody is happening is fine, but I’m talking about those moments of the quiet vocals and random outbursts of instruments. It feels so abrupt that it’s distracting. And the two parts of the song don’t connect with each other that well. It’s still a good song and worth listening to, but it’s not as good as it could be.

Song number five is called Outside. Out of all the songs on the album, this is probably the most “alternative” sounding. I’m not talking about today’s alternative, I’m more talking about early-middle 2000s alternative. This is one of those songs that you’ll need to listen to a few times before you fully appreciate it, and that’s certainly the case for me. First time I heard it, I thought to myself, “this is pretty forgettable,” but upon second listening, I thought, “hey, this is pretty good.” It has a very simple, yet great melody with Dave’s vocals being overstated, yet very pleasing to listen to. It’s guitar solo also has a lot of soul and power behind it. But, the real star of the song is the bass, especially in the bridge. It’s deep, complex, and just sounds great. This may not be the best song on the first listen, but after a few, it becomes a great song.

Up next is In the Clear. This is probably the simplest song on the album. It’s presented in a very straightforward manor with a more laid back sound. Now, I have mixed feelings about this song. On the one hand, it has a similar sound to one of my favorite 90s bands, Collective Soul. However, I think this song is kind of boring. It’s not very interesting in its music or its vocals. It does have a couple moments of raw emotion in Dave’s vocal tone and it does have a pretty decent and beautiful guitar riff, but as a whole, it’s kind of forgettable. So far, it’s my least favorite on the album.

The seventh song is called Subterranean. Out of all the songs on the album thus far, this is the most distinct sounding one. Subterranean is very pscychedellic with a dark and atmospheric tone to the whole thing with acoustic guitar driving the entire song. Like Outside, this one is going to take a couple listens to really enjoy this one. And once you do, it becomes one of the best on the album. The song is very beautiful, with an ambient and almost eery rhythm and melody. It’s very simple, yet very soothing to the ears. The song runs at six minutes long, yet never feels like it’s dragging. This is a thing of beauty and definitely stands out as a winning track.

The final song on this album is called I Am A River. The song starts out with an opening melody harkening back to one of their tunes on There Is Nothing Left To Lose. It begins quiet, but gradually crescendos into a powerful anthem. This song is absolutely beautiful. I love everything about this song from the guitars to the drums to the vocals to the chanting chorus to the drifty feeling this song gives me. Everything about this song is very pleasing and is a great way to end the album.

Sonic Highways is a great album that’s getting more hate than it deserves. While it may not be as strong as some of their other work, it’s still got some really good tunes. This is one of those albums that’s going to take a few listens to really appreciate, but if you give the album a chance, it’s easy to see how strong the songs are. Sonic Highways was a very ambitious project that definitely works.

I give this album an 8 out of 10. This album is worth listening to for some great rock music.