Album review: Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

Dave Grohl pays tribute to Taylor Hawkins and his mother on Foo Fighters’ extraordinary 11th album…

Album review: Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
George Garner

Are you feeling what I’m feeling?’ So asks Dave Grohl on But Here We Are’s lead single Rescued. While fans continue to join him and his bandmates in mourning the late, great Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, the truth is that no one could comprehend what he was feeling. Not truly. Not after losing the man he described as “my brother from another mother, my best friend, a man from whom I would take a bullet” in his 2021 book The Storyteller. And not having also lost his mother, Virginia, shortly afterwards – the single parent teacher who raised him and allowed him to drop out of high school to pursue music. His biggest fan.

Foos’ astounding 11th studio album is dedicated to both of them and, like Alice In Chains’ classic Black Gives Way To Blue, it prises beauty from unimaginable suffering. Make no mistake, Foo Fighters have delivered a masterpiece – one they never would have wanted to have to record, but a masterpiece nonetheless.

The song sets the tone perfectly for its parent album: a record freighted with disorientation and trauma. By now, fans have long since been transfixed by Dave’s poignant tribute to Taylor Hawkins, singing ‘Pictures of us sharing songs and cigarettes, this is how I’ll always picture you,’ on Under You. Yet this is one of many eloquent, candid lines that capture the shifting rhythms of his grief. Take Nothing At All, which sees him musing ‘I’ll get by or maybe I won’t’ before ultimately concluding that it’s ‘everything or nothing at all’ as the song erupts behind him. Beyond Me, meanwhile, is a gorgeous slow-burn power ballad. ‘You must release what you hold dear, or so I fear’ he reflects – the confession of a wise man at pains to embrace his own wisdom. If it is not yet clear, rest assured: this is not an easy listen.

What wasn’t necessarily expected amid all this is the sheer variation, vocally and musically, across the 10 songs. On the excellent title track it sometimes sounds like the words are burning holes in Dave’s oesophagus, while The Glass opts for a gorgeous melody to soothe. Show Me How sees Dave harmonise with his daughter Violet over a shoegazey backing, while the snaking guitar line of Hear Voices traces The Cure’s eerie footsteps before it starts soaring.

For the clearest evidence of their adventurous spirit, however, consult The Teacher. Clocking in at a sprawling 10 minutes, it feels like two different tracks fighting for supremacy as it switches moods from menacing to uplifting and back. Some of its lines detonate on impact, others leave you pondering them after many plays. The latter type comes as Dave sings, ‘Two cold stones on a riverbed, ripped and torn, cannot mend, old white candles on a dusty porch, one flame down, another born’. It’s a song you will keep falling deeper and deeper into. ‘You showed me how to grieve, but never showed me how to say goodbye,’ he observes as the song approaches its gargantuan conclusion. With one final pained goodbye uttered against a wash of noise, it sounds like your speakers are disintegrating. It’s hard to imagine a more powerful ending. Somehow, there is still something more moving to come.

The album ends with the haunting and haunted Rest, as Dave’s whispered vocals hover above a desolate acoustic guitar passage. Every intimate breath, every delicately enunciated word registers like a hammer. Possessed of the same nakedness as Nirvana’s classic Something In The Way, during the opening minutes it feels like Dave is playing it alone in his room and you’re overhearing something you shouldn’t be. From there things get louder, soon he’s repeating the word ‘rest’ like a mantra over bursts of distortion, before it eventually diffuses back into quietude. ‘Waking up, I had another dream of us, in the warm Virgina sun, there I will meet you’ he concludes. You wouldn’t want to meet the person who hasn’t lost control of their eyes by that point.

Back to that title: But Here We Are. What, then, is the “here” we finally arrive at? Foo Fighters was forged in tragedy. Here they have been re-forged. It has the character of both an ending and a new beginning. It’s a miracle not only that it was made, but also that it boasts the mesmeric lyrical and musical qualities it does. Somehow Dave Grohl found a way to wrap words around the enormity of his grief as he surrendered to his own impossible circumstances. There’s no way around the losses. But there are chords to be strung together and memories to be preserved. Out of the ‘nothing at all’ he contended with, something finally emerged. Each precious new song, an act of survival.

Verdict: 5/5

For fans of: Pearl Jam, Queens Of The Stone Age, Smashing Pumpkins

But Here We Are is released June 2 via Roswell

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