Album Review: Foo Fighters - But Here We Are

31 May 2023 | 2:00 pm | Stephen Green

The world is waiting to hear what Dave Grohl's musical answer will be as one of the world's biggest bands reels from the loss of a member.

Foo Fighters - But Here We Are

Foo Fighters - But Here We Are (Supplied)

More Foo Fighters More Foo Fighters

The world was shocked last year when Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins passed away while on tour in Brazil in March. Just a week after delighting Australian fans in their one-off Victorian show, the music community went into mourning, while the band themselves were left to pick up the pieces. 

Nobody knows what the band's creative force Dave Grohl was going through, but a year on, the best indications are in the new album But Here We Are, which lands on Friday. In a year where Dave also lost his mother Virginia in July, you'd be forgiven for expecting a rather introspective and emotional kind of Foo Fighters offering. 

And that's what we've been served, but still in a very Foo Fighters packaging. 

The album opens with the first single Rescued, which is a traditional Foo Fighters radio banger. The listening notes suggest that the album is sonically harking back to early Foo Fighters like their self-titled debut. Not quite the grit of that debut album, Rescued does however have the hallmarks that will keep fans of tracks like Monkey Wrench and My Hero from The Color and the Shape more than satisfied. 

The record then barrels forward into the heavily-riffed Under You, which has a similarly radio-friendly vibe. The lyrics are simple, even playful, but take a slightly darker tone when taken in the context of Dave's losses, satisfying anyone yearning for the commercial bangers of There Is Nothing Left To Lose

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Third track Hear Voices takes things in a slightly different direction with some interesting melodic choices, but Dave's commercial songwriting manages to reign supreme. The song ends with Dave playing solo on guitar and provides an interesting pause-point for the album. It's like he's signalling that the hit quotient is out of the way and the rest of the record is for him. 

The title track But Here We Are is a man trying to reckon with the loss he's been handed. Whether it's for Taylor or his mother Virginia is irrelevant. It's lyrically almost confused, as you hear him wrestling with the anger and sadness while trying to move forward. Somehow this is all wrapped up in a song that still manages to sound like a stadium banger, with the kind of riffs we're used to in a Foo Fighters hit. 

Track five The Glass addresses "waiting for the storm to pass" as he comes to grips with the relationships he's lost. It's a simple pop song that doesn't dig too deep, but once again, the lyrical simplicity belies the feelings we know are behind the basic sentiment. Nothing At All follows on as a more complex statement, but once again wrapped up in a pop song. 

Show Me How is another track that was dropped ahead of the album's release, presented as a duet with Grohl's daughter Violet. The track is a sparkly dream pop number reminiscent of the band's In Your Honour period. Whether deliberate or by accident, the album is taking fans on a trip back through the band's history, giving songs that could each fit neatly into various eras of Foo Fighters history and this one is a welcome addition. 

If the album were to be split into a three-act play, this would be the end of the mid-section. This is where we say goodbye to the pop rock bangers that are talking to Dave's pain and enter the final section where his heart is well and truly left on his sleeve. Grab the tissues.

We're not couching the lyrics into ambiguous "might be about a girlfriend, but is it really about his relationship with Taylor?" territory from this point on. For the rest of the album, we're directly talking about loss. Beyond Me sounds like an ode to his mother where he reconciles the inevitability of aging with the unfairness of losing someone who means so much. The track is almost Britpop in its approach (a touch of Champagne Supernova perhaps?) and once again relies on simple lyrics to get the message across. 

Track ten is the epic ten minute moment where Grohl seemingly tries to epicly come to terms with his loss. Hurry now boy, time won't wait / Here and now we'll separate / There's some things you cannot choose / Soul and spirit moving through. The lyrics are delivered like a freight train speeding down a track. Hey kid, What's the plan for tomorrow / Where will I wake up. The repeated Who's At The Door Now lyric is almost ominous as the song paints a picture of inevitability. 

The emotional epic builds to a sonic reckoning, with the second half of the song dealing with the loss. You showed me how to breathe now you show me how to say goodbye. These were no doubt painful words to write and they are indeed difficult to listen to. Grohl's lyrical simplicity that could have sounded trite instead is the weapon that hits the hardest. Counting every minute living breath by breath is quite an obvious line, but it's used here to effective devastation. 

The song ends with its final thirty seconds simply repeating 'Goodbye' over and over until the song is overtaken by static fuzz. This ten minutes is the best way Grohl knows how to describe the last year of his life. It's chaotic, painful, angry and but ultimately musical. Music got him to this stage and music will get him to the next. 

The album closes with Rest. A cathartic moment, this five minute epic lets go of the angst of the previous ten songs and feels like a calm breath in an album that has spent much of its time holding it. It's soaring, it's glorious and it is emblematic of letting go. The confusion is gone and in its place, this is a song that is assured and calm. It's the song that lifts the inevitable weight that the rest of the album has built towards off the shoulders of the listener, and presumably off the songwriter as well. 

If you find yourself in tears across the final fifteen epic minutes of this album, you won't be alone. It's a rollercoaster of emotion that hits a perfect balance of being both a painful diary entry and a stadium rock album. Dave Grohl and Co have something to say, but not at the expense of the promise of a Foo Fighters record. 

Medicine At Midnight had some great songs and an unbridled positivity that some mistook for a lack of depth, but But Here We Are can't be accused of that, clearly displaying its emotion while retaining the commercial heart brought to bear producer Greg Kurstin.

It's got the obligatory radio hits and it knows its audience. In a lot of ways, it's a big warm hug to bring together all Foo Fighters fans, regardless of what era of their triple decade career they are from. You're going to know whether this record is for you. If you hate the Foo Fighters, then you'll hate this record. It'll be simplistic or overblown, depending on what you hate them for. 

But if you appreciate Dave Grohl's brilliance, then this has it on show in all its glory. Sometimes people don't want a PHD in theory to feel emotion in music and Grohl's ability to communicate simply through heavy pop songs are what makes them one of biggest bands on the planet. On But Here We Are, he has created a pop rock opus, delivering complex emotion through simple lyrics and melodies in a way that hits directly at the heart. It's emotionally heavy, yet completely accessible and in working through his own pain, Dave Grohl has created a mainstream album for thinking and feeling.

It delivers hit rock songs, takes the listener on an almost crushing emotional journey, but crucially sets them free.