What you need to know about the Foo Fighters' new album, Concrete and Gold

What you need to know about the Foo Fighters' new album, Concrete and Gold

Concrete sounds

Text: Renée Batchelor

Image: Getty Images

In Singapore for their concert at the Sports Hub, we caught up with the Foo Fighters at a listening party for their ninth album, Concrete and Gold

It's been a while since the Foo Fighters last came to Singapore. 21 years ago to be exact, when the American rockers first perfomed here with Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys in the now defunct Harbour Pavilion. Following their cancellation of their last concert in 2012, fans have been hankering for that full, stadium rock Foo Fighters experience, and some 25,000 were finally treated to it at their concert on 26 August, with lead singer Dave Grohl even getting a little emotional at the reception the band received. 

For upcoming ninth studio album Concrete and Gold, the band returned to a more traditional studio experience. They chose pop producer Greg Kurstin — who has worked with Adele and Sia and is also a member of indie duo The Bird and the Bee — for the first time. It's also the first hard rock album Kurstin's producing, making it a first for both sides. After experimenting with recording in different cities for their previous album, Sonic Highways, and recording 2011's Wasting Light in Grohl's garage, the band returned to the most radical thing they could do — a fully-produced, at times almost lush, orchestral, studio album. The charismatic Grohl — who as we learned does most of the speaking for the band – has dubbed it "Motörhead's version of Sgt.Pepper... or something like that."

Speaking to press in a room at the Mandarin Oriental hours before their concert at the Sports Hub, all six members — Grohl, Nate Mandel, Chris Shifflet, Rami Jaffee, Pat Smear and Taylor Hawkins — shared nuggets of trivia after a playback session of Concrete and Gold.

1. The Foo Fighters almost didn't perform here in 1996
If you thought 2012 marked the first time the Foos had to cancel a gig in Singapore, you would be half-wrong. According to Grohl, the band's then drummer William Goldsmith fell really ill before their 1996 concert, and kept going back and forth on whether he could play. Grohl, who was previously the drummer in Nirvana, even offered to replace him. In the end, the Foo Fighters did perform, albeit much mellower versions of their songs for Goldsmith's benefit. As for the ill-fated drummer, he didn't last long with the band, with Grohl jokingly telling the press that for several reasons, things didn't work out between them. Perhaps it had something to do with this tabloid article.

2. Dave Grohl directed his daughters in the video for 'The Sky is a Neighbourhood'... but they didn't get paid
In the music video for the second single off the album, Grohl's two daughters, Violet, 11 and Harper, 8, played the leads. It probably sounded like a good idea at the time, except the tweens didn't get paid thanks to Grohl only realising on hindsight that the money earned would have gone back to him. "I forgot to do that", he quipped. This wasn't the first time that Grohl has directed a Foo Fighters video. He even corrected bandmate Taylor Hawkins, stating that 1997's 'Monkeywrench' marked the first time he took on directorial duties for the band. As to why the multi-tasking lead singer, who also directed the video for the first single 'Run' as well as a HBO docu-series for their last album, takes on these additional roles? "It's less people to pay," joked Hawkins.

3. There are tonnes of guest artists in Concrete and Gold, including a much-hyped secret pop star
Perhaps it's clever markerting, but the band has teased that a major pop singer will be providing backing vocals on a very 'heavy' track. No word on who he or she is though, although we're praying it won't be Taylor Swift. Other musical geniuses that have lent their talents to the record include former Beatle Paul McCartney, who recorded the drums for one song, as well as The Kills' Alison Mosshart, who sings on a few tracks. Our guess? That's her voice on 'Dirty Water'. Another surprise contributor was Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman who sang on the title track, with his vocals being stacked to create a 'choir-like' effect.

4. The album is still pretty heavy
Listening to Concrete and Gold on full blast, we can assure you that the band has lost none of its hard rock edge, especially on 'Run' and tracks like the Led Zeppelin-esque 'Make it Right'. Still, the album is not all hard edges, with quieter moments including the opening song, 'T-Shirt' and the Eleanor Rigby-inspired harmonies on 'Happily Ever After,' creating the kind of melodic, highs and lows that make for a multi-layered listening experience.

5. The Foo Fighters get political
How could they not, with all that's happening in the post-Trump era? Although we didn't get a chance to ask them about the subtext in the songs, Grohl had previously revealed to NME that the album is about "hope and desperation" and "some of it is a little political." While lyrically oblique, lines like "The rats are on parade. Another mad charade" from 'Run' make us think of a certain US President and his court of jesters. Rock on.

Concrete and Gold is available for pre-order here and will be released on 15 September.