- Release date:
- Sep 15, 2017
- Roswell Records / RCA Records
More from year 2017
This album has been recorded during the following studio sessions
March - April 2017 ?
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1:22 • Studio version
5:23 • Studio version
Make It Right
4:39 • Studio version
The Sky Is A Neighborhood
4:04 • Studio version
La Dee Da
4:02 • Studio version
5:20 • Studio version
4:26 • Studio version
Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)
3:41 • Studio version
6:11 • Studio version • A
- Paul McCartney :
- Dave Grohl :
- Pat Smear :
- Greg Kurstin :
- Producer, Synthesizer
- Foo Fighters :
- Chris Shiflett :
- Nate Mendel :
- Rami Jaffee :
- Organ, Synth, Synthesizer, Wurlitzer piano
- Taylor Hawkins :
- Lead vocals
- Alex Pasco :
- Recording engineer
- Julian Burg :
- Recording engineer
- Darrell Thorp :
- Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
- Brendan Dekora :
- Recording engineer
- Samon Rajabnik :
- Recording engineer
- Chaz Sexton :
- Assistant recording engineer
- Session Recording:
- March - April 2017 ?
- Studio :
- EastWest Studios, Los Angeles, USA
3:38 • Studio version
Concrete And Gold
5:31 • Studio version
Concrete and Gold is the ninth studio album by American rock band Foo Fighters, released on September 15, 2017, through Roswell and RCA Records. It is the band’s first album to be produced alongside Greg Kurstin. Described by the band as an album where “hard rock extremes and pop sensibilities collide”, Concrete and Gold concerns the future of the United States from the viewpoint of the band’s frontman and lead songwriter Dave Grohl, with the heated atmosphere of the 2016 elections and the presidency of Donald Trump cited as major influences by Grohl. Juxtapositions serve as a common motif in both the album’s lyrical and musical composition, with Grohl further describing the album’s overall theme as “hope and desperation”.
Writing and recording of Concrete and Gold started in late 2016, after Grohl ended a self-imposed six-month hiatus from music while recovering from an injury sustained on the Sonic Highways World Tour. Working off a set of twelve or thirteen ideas for songs conceived by Grohl, the band enlisted the help of Kurstin, a pop music producer, who had never worked on a heavy rock record previously. The studio at which the band chose to record Concrete and Gold, EastWest Studios in Hollywood, California, fostered collaborations with various other artists who were also working at the studio at the time, including Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, Justin Timberlake, and Paul McCartney. It is the first Foo Fighters studio album to feature long-time session and touring keyboardist Rami Jaffee as a permanent member.
Concrete and Gold was received positively by music critics, who praised the album’s more expansive feel, both musically and lyrically. Modest criticism was aimed at the perceived lack of musical deviation from the band’s previous albums. The album became the band’s second to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, moving 127,000 album-equivalent units and selling 120,000 copies in its first week in the United States. The album also debuted at number one on twelve other national album charts, such as the United Kingdom Official Albums Chart and Australian ARIA Albums Chart. Singles from the album also found success; “Run” and “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” both peaked at number one at the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart. An eponymous headlining tour to promote the album ran through the second half of 2017.
The band’s earliest ideas for their ninth studio album included creating a studio on the Hollywood Bowl amphitheater in California and recording the album live in front of a crowd of 20,000 people. However, frontman Dave Grohl lost interest in the idea upon learning that it had already recently been done by PJ Harvey with her 2015 recording sessions for her album The Hope Six Demolition Project. Plans further changed due to the events of the band touring in support of their prior studio album, Sonic Highways, when Grohl fell off the stage and broke his leg at a June 2015 concert in Sweden. Through the use of a self-designed “throne”, a large chair that could sit him comfortably on stage, Grohl and the band completed the tour and recorded the Saint Cecilia EP and song.
After the tour, in early 2016, the band announced they would enter an indefinite hiatus. While no reasons were given at the time, in 2017, Grohl told Rolling Stone that he was still struggling from the injury, still unable to walk and enduring daily, lengthy physical therapy sessions. He secluded himself from the band, and set a goal for himself to stay away from music for an entire year while he focused on recuperating. However, at six months to the day, he cancelled the plan when he began writing the lyrics to the track “Run”.
Writing and recording
Initial writing sessions only involved Grohl, who continued being in seclusion from the band, although he initially struggled, feeling “out of practice” and “creatively atrophied” due to his longer than usual break from music. Grohl rented an Airbnb in Ojai, California, so he could focus on long bouts of writing, with Grohl recounting “I brought a case of wine and sat there in my underwear with a microphone for about five days, just writing.” After twelve or thirteen rough ideas were mapped out, he ran them by the band, who shared Grohl’s belief that he was on the right track with the material. Happy with his work, but feeling the material still required further development, Grohl started thinking about reaching out to a music producer.
The band ended up working with music producer Greg Kurstin on the album. Grohl had been listening to the work of Kurstin’s indie pop band, The Bird and the Bee since 2014 and was very impressed with his work, calling it “so much more sophisticated than anything [he’d] ever heard.” Grohl reached out to Kurstin, and learned that he had taken a hiatus from The Bird and the Bee to focus on his work as a music producer, producing songs including Halsey’s “Strangers”, Sia’s “The Greatest” and “Cheap Thrills” and Adele’s “Hello”. The two both were interested in the challenge presented with working together – Kurstin had never worked on a heavy rock album, while Grohl had never worked with a pop songwriter – and decided to collaborate on the album.
Recording was done at the heavily populated EastWest Studios, where the band frequently ran into, and interacted with, various other musicians in the studio building. Recording sessions frequently culminated in large barbecues and alcohol drinking among the other artists using the studios, often leading to Grohl grilling meat for parties of up to forty people while finishing up recording sessions. The setup led to the band having a number of high-profile collaborations on the album. The band worked with Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman on the album’s title track and album closer, which stemmed from a chance meeting between Grohl and Stockman in the parking lot. Grohl also announced that “probably the biggest pop star in the world” would provide backing vocals on a track as well, though he refused to name who, leading to much speculation due to the number of pop stars Kurstin had previously worked with prior to the Foo Fighters. Grohl later clarified that it was not Adele or Taylor Swift, and that the person has “been around a long time”, and eventually revealed it to be Justin Timberlake. Further collaborations include vocals by Inara George on the track “Dirty Water”, saxophone by David Koz on the track “La Dee Da”, and vocals by Alison Mosshart of The Kills on “La Dee Da” and “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”. Additionally, Paul McCartney contributed drums to the track “Sunday Rain” after entering the studio and recording two drum tracks without even hearing the song first, basing his performance entirely on Grohl recreating the song acoustically for him on the spot. Concrete and Gold also marks Rami Jaffee’s first credit as an official band member, having been a session and touring keyboardist for the band since 2005.
While not a formal collaborator on the album, Grohl also would travel to visit past collaborator Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age during the recording sessions as well, who was working in the nearby United Recording music studio. The two often played in-progress material for each other, as each was working on a new approach of recording a rock album with a pop music producer, Homme doing the same thing with music producer Mark Ronson on the album Villains.
Composition and themes
The band describe the album’s sound as where “hard rock extremes and pop sensibilities collide”, comparing it conceptually to being “Motorhead’s version of Sgt. Pepper” or “Slayer making Pet Sounds“. Explaining further, the album’s sound was described as combining heavy guitar riffs with “lush harmonic complexities”. Hawkins added that in contrast to their mindset in the previous albums going to “let’s make a good rock n’ roll record”, Concrete and Gold was “the weird record.” Grohl described the title track, which features the vocals of Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men, as sounding like “Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd” and explaining that they “built a choir” out of Stockman’s vocal takes, overdubbing them so it sounds “like 40 vocals stacked”. Hawkins described the album as their “most psychedelic” and “weirdest” sounding.
Lyrically, the album is based around Grohl’s thoughts about the future of the United States – “politically, personally, as a father, an American and a musician”. While the lyrics were written to vent Grohl’s political frustrations, the album lyrics themselves are not overtly-political. Grohl also stated an overall theme of the album was “hope and desperation”. “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” and “T-Shirt” represent a more bleak worldview by Grohl’s, the two songs showing his concern for the future of humanity, and desire for escapism, respectively. The election and presidency of Donald Trump was cited as a huge influence of Grohl’s negativity, with Grohl stating:
I look at all of the different periods of time where I’ve written lyrics, and they all have their own references and different phases. This one came out pretty clear: I’m a father now, I have to consider a lot more than I used to, and I think I’ve realised we’re not all as free as we were before. In every way. I mean, as the political arena started heating up in America before the elections, it became clear that there was so much more threatening all of our lives than I’d considered before. I’m looking at a candidate that has blatant disregard for the future environmentally, when it comes to women’s rights, diplomatically. … I have three daughters that are going to survive me for decades – how are they going to get on unless there’s some positive and progressive change? […]
From ET Canada, July 31, 2017:
[…] We got to sit down with the Foo Fighters and Grohl revealed to us who one of the surprise guests on the album is: Paul McCartney.
“Paul McCartney plays drums on one of our songs. He’s a pal. We’ve known him for a long. He’s great. He’s the most wonderful person in the world. He’s a great guy,” Grohl said.
“He hadn’t even heard of the song. He comes in and Dave picked up an acoustic and showed him real quick. He sat on his special drum set that his tech set up for him. I sat there with a drumstick conducting. He did two takes,” the band spilled to ET Canada. […]
From Rolling Stone, September 6, 2017:
[…] But even that wasn’t the Foos’ most exciting guest. That honor belongs to Sir Paul McCartney. He and Grohl are buddies – they socialize with their families and have jammed together a few times. So when McCartney had to borrow [producer Greg Kurstin for his follow-up to 2013 NEW album] in the middle of the Foos’ recording, Grohl decided to call in a favor. He texted McCartney: “Do you want to play drums on one of our new songs?” McCartney’s response? “You’re crazy, man!“
But to the band’s delight, he agreed. “Even if it had been banjo, I think I probably would have showed up,” McCartney says. The last time he got a call like that from Grohl was to collaborate on the soundtrack to Grohl’s 2013 documentary, Sound City. “I was jamming with these two guys I’d never met,” McCartney says. “And then I heard them talking in the studio, and it was like, ‘Oh, shit! You guys are fucking Nirvana!’“
“It’s inspiring,” Grohl says, “because he’s still playing for the same reasons we all started playing when we were young. He just wants to jam.“
Unsurprisingly, Paul McCartney is a pretty good drummer. “You don’t generally think of him as a drummer,” Hawkins says. “But he laid that track so fucking effortlessly. He never even heard the song – Dave kind of explained it to him with an acoustic guitar. And he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. I think I know what you’re doing.’ “
McCartney played two takes; they used the first. “He was so fucking good,” Grohl says. “We played for an hour, then took a break and had bagels and tea. I thought we were done – I didn’t want to rag him out – so I was out having a cig, and someone goes, ‘Hey, Paul wants to jam some more.’ He rounded everybody up, and we jammed for hours: ‘Let’s write some songs, man!’ “
“Well, you know,” says McCartney. “Once you get the meter running…” […]
Last updated on April 11, 2021