Foo Fighters, ‘But Here We Are': Album Review
One thing you can say about Foo Fighters: They've been almost rigidly consistent with their records over the past quarter century. From their first real band album, 1997's The Colour and the Shape through 2021's Medicine at Midnight, they haven't progressed so much as they've turned out guitar-heavy modern rock with slight variations over the years. Spotting the differences between, say, 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and 2017's Concrete and Gold can be maddening.
So it mostly comes down to time and place to identify the albums' distinctions: the double album (In Your Honor), the TV soundtrack album (Sonic Highways), the "dance" album (Medicine at Midnight). Their 11th LP, But Here We Are, will forever be known as the first album made following the sudden death of the band's longtime drummer, Taylor Hawkins. But it's not just a simple identifier in this case: Hawkins' 2022 death casts a dark tone over the entirety of But Here We Are.
From its stark white cover art to the somber tones contained inside, the album is both reflection and assessment of the period following the tragic event, a time when Foo Fighters weren't even sure if they'd continue as a band. "It came in a flash, it came outta nowhere / It happened so fast, and then it was over," frontman Dave Grohl sums up in the first lines of the opening track, "Rescued." Those looking for answers from this mostly fruitless glimpse into a dark void will instead have to settle for reluctant acceptance. That applies to the band, too.
A sense of longing is all over But Here We Are: Grohl's mom, an inspiration throughout his career, died a few months after Hawkins. Their ghosts drift from song to song and often become one. He hears voices, begs for conversations and has visions that quickly disappear. "There are times I can't recover / Sometimes I just don't know what to do," Grohl sings on "Under You," a highlight of a record that channels grief into some of the biggest sounding songs Foo Fighters have ever made.
These are also, at least at first, the most radio-ready riffs found on a Foo Fighters album since 2011's Wasting Light. "Rescued," "Under You," "Nothing at All," and the title track partially disguise their pain with a musical straightforwardness that eventually gives way to a run of songs in the back half that confronts the grief more directly and in more expected ways – i.e. slower songs sung with more mannered reverence. But Here We Are ends with the 10-minute "The Teacher," in which Grohl says "goodbye" over and over until a blur of noise cuts out the song, and then "Rest," which begins as a solo acoustic number that recalls the Kurt Cobain requiems of Foo Fighters' 1995 debut before concluding with a repeated refrain of "You will be safe now." It's a prayer and hope coming after a dark period and, with the rest of the album, probably the closest to closure they will get.