Last year was horrible for the Foo Fighters. What should have been a victory lap around the planet with their pandemic-delayed 25th-anniversary tour turned into a time of sadness, heartbreak and misery.
First, it was the sudden death of Taylor Hawkins, the band’s beloved drummer, and Dave Grohl’s best friend. And then in July, Virginia Grohl, Dave’s super-supportive mother died under unknown circumstances. A lesser brand would have been crushed by all this grief.
Instead, after a period of mourning, the band through itself into work as a way of healing. The result could have been an album featuring contemplations of death, mortality, and heartache. Instead, the band has turned in a record–their eleventh–that’s laden with life, vitality, and hope. Despite everything, the Foo Fighters live to fight another day, raging against the dying of the light. And honestly, But Here We Are (out Friday) is their best record in a decade as the band stares death in the face and refuses to bend.
There’s a ton of pain and grit on this record but it’s also counterintuitively filled with joy. And if you look carefully at the artwork, you’ll see that the record is dedicated to Virginia and Taylor. (Actually, the artwork is my only quibble with the album. It’s so evanescent in its appearance that it’s hardly even there.)
Let’s go through it track by track. And let me say this at the outset: This is one record where you will want to pay attention to the lyrics.
- Rescued: The first single is destined to be a show opener for many Foo Fighters gigs to come. With its themes of people coming together when times are tough, it’s a kick against tragedy and a vow to carry one.
- Under You: Another look at grief and relationships wrapped in a chunky, riffy, upbeat package. Listen to the lyrics carefully as Dave remembers friends who have passed and an attempt to find meaning in the spaces they left behind. Instead of being maudlin, though, it’s a cheerful look at the impressions that remain of those people.
- Hearing Voices: The Foos dial it back just a bit with a (Cure-ish?) song featuring sentiments that will be familiar to anyone who has lost a loved one. “I’ve been hearing voices/None of them are you” and “Late at night I tell myself/Nothing good can last forever.”
- But Here We Are: Life happens and then you die. But live you must and when bad things happen, accept them and move on the best you can. The only thing you can say is “but where we are. Now what? Keep going. What other choice do you have?”
- The Glass: A song about a hopeless relationship that ends too soon. Is it just me or is the melody of this song something Dave may have learned to create from his friend Paul McCartney? It also contains this line: “I had a person I love / And just like that, I was left to live without him.”
- Nothing at All: There’s a cool pop groove to this one that underpins likes like “Maybe I’ll get by/Maybe I won’t.” It starts melodic but by the time we get to the chorus, Dave is singing in a cathartic near-scream.
- Show Me How: No big rock jam with this one. And there’s not much in the way of hope, either. This is the one song that questions mortality and the point of it all. Vocals from Dave’s daughter Violent turn this into a near shoegaze/dreampop song that could have come out of the UK c. 1994.
- Beyond Me: This reminds me of old-school FM rock that will have lighters (now cellphones) held aloft. And boy, that sure sounds like a Brian May guitar solo around the three-minute mark.
- The Teacher: The album’s ten-minute epic features the line “I can feel what others do/Can’t stop this if I wanted to” In other words, no matter what happens, the Foo Fighters can’t break up. It’s impossible to stop. Stay for the final third of the song where Dave sings “Try and make good with the air that’s left/Counting every minute, living breath by breath” and “Show me how to live and show me how to say goodbye/Show me how to grieve and show me how to say goodbye.” It ends with a stark “goodbye.” By the way, Dave’s mom was a teacher.
- Rest: The rawest song on the album, so much so that it sounds like it might have been a demo that said everything it needed to. It ends this way: “Waking up, I had another dream of us / In the warm Virginia sun, there I will meet you.” I’m not crying. You’re crying.
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