Foo Fighters return to form with gut punching, emotional juggernaut But Here We Are
Good grief and great guitars on this wall of turmoil and transformation in a mere 10 tracks.
But Here We Are is Foo Fighters’ 11th studio album, but it’s also the first LP without drummer Taylor Hawkins the group has produced in 24 years. The lightning bolt of a percussionist unexpectedly passed in March of last year, leaving the six-piece rock outfit without the crash in their symbols, their anchor, and their friend.
Loss continued to impact the Foo Fighters family when leading man Dave Grohl’s mother, Virginia Grohl, passed only a few months later. Taylor and Virginia are rooted in But Here We Are. They are the foundation of a record soaked in grief, and their role in its creation can’t be ignored.
That said, as much as Foo Fighters’ latest is a love letter to two important members of the band’s family, it’s also a message to listeners engulfed in pain of all kinds. But Here We Are is a bearhug and a friend to scream into the night with. It’s crushing and brimming with joy. It’s a longing for the past and a window into the future, and it’s the tightest release Grohl and co. have put together in more than a decade.
But Here We Are begins its ride through the angles of grief with “Rescued,” a glistening, wavy guitar tune that also served as the project’s first single. It’s a decent enough, rev-up-your-engines start that sets the stage for Grohl’s return as the sole drummer, but it’s not the strongest beginning for a 10-track rock record. However, the song’s place in the makeup of the album isn’t clear until the group’s greater identity is taken into consideration.
“Rescued” isn’t a song about Grohl’s desire to be saved by some Marvel-type superhero – it’s a concert-opener. It’s a song about community and how togetherness in times of tragedy can help weather the storm, an idea die-hards are all too familiar with. Foo Fighters knows their fans need them, but the truth is that the band needs their fans, too, especially now.
“Under You” keeps the ball rolling with an upbeat and chunky examination of the relationship the grieving share with their lost loved ones. Though the lyrics recount memories of friends passed and an individual looking for meaning in a newly opened void, it’s the humming guitars and soaring melodies that paint a cheerful picture of what we’re left with after someone leaves. “Under You” is a trademark Foos cut that hearkens back to In Your Honor, but it’s also, maybe, the best example of the too-often-forgotten sides of grief that are thoroughly inspected in But Here We Are.
“The Glass” takes listeners on a burning trip through a hopeless relationship that is ripped away too soon but shows up only after “Hearing Voices” has Grohl crying out the line, “Speak to me, my love,” as the instrumentals jump between awesome and aching. Though But Here We Are doesn’t quite have that “All My Life,” “Everlong,” “Run,” or “Best of You” moment, the pacing of each of these three-to-four-minute songs fits together to create a project that is one of Foo Fighters’ most cohesive yet.
Of course, no one shows up to a Foo Fighters record without expecting at least one (or two) barnburners. “Nothing At All” is a rebellious, cathartic howl with sizzling high hats and builds to the kinds of moments Foo Fighters fans have reveled in since the band’s inception in the mid-‘90s.
The record’s title track is another Foo Fighters classic anthem contender that sees every member of the band come together for a heroic milestone that tackles acceptance head-on. It’s coated in some of Grohl’s gnarliest screams and features his always impressive drumming style, but it also lets producer Greg Kurstin shine with stronger material than what he was able to deliver with the Foo’s ninth LP, Concrete and Gold. It’s because of Kurstin that But Here We Are successfully mixes In Your Honor and Wasting Light tones with a few dashes of Concrete and Gold flavor to create a record that is a painfully personal piece of rock art.
Out of nearly 50 minutes of music, the last two tracks, “The Teacher” and “Rest,” manage to be two of its most heart-wrenching. The former is probably the track with the least relisten potential, but it does still pack its whopping 10 minutes with concentrated emotion and a bit-crushed finale of “goodbyes” that is almost physically painful (in a good way).
As “Rest” closes out But Here We Are with an electric blanket of comfort, it might not be a bad idea to start the whole project over from the beginning. This no-skip record is unambiguously focused on creating a front-to-back experience.
You don’t need to be a Foo Fighters lore fiend or even a rock fan to find something in here that lets out a long cry. If nothing else, But Here We Are is Foo Fighters sonically revisiting the past to do what they are best at: healing through music.