When the larger than life Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins died suddenly from a cardiac arrest in March last year, there was never really any question that the band would carry on. This, after all, is a music project that came out of Dave Grohl’s desire to continue making music while grieving for another bandmate: Kurt Cobain. That he has gone on to achieve vast commercial success for over a quarter of a century is a testament to Grohl’s uncanny ability to make something positive out of even the most tragic situations. On Walk, a Foo Fighters song from 2011, he can be heard screaming “I never wanna die!” again and again.
So it was fitting that the Hawkins tribute concert, at Wembley Stadium last June, was a joyful occasion. His replacement, Josh Freese, was introduced last month, not sombrely, but in a funny film pranking viewers into believing that a range of famous drummers were getting the job.
Grohl plays the drums on this eleventh album, his first bit of Foo Fighters drumming since the song Cold Day In The Sun in 2005 (which Hawkins sang). Greg Kurstin returns to produce for the third time in succession, and although his pop background had helped the band towards moments of overblown ridiculousness on recent work, they can’t carry on in that vein this time. The understated electric guitar strum that opens Rescued, even though it soon gives way to a muscular riff, makes clear that it won’t be fun all the way any more.
Death casts a shadow on almost every lyric – not only that of Hawkins but also Grohl’s mother Virginia, who passed away last August. She was a teacher, and the song The Teacher is a spectacular finale here. Across 10 minutes it becomes overwhelmingly loud with only occasional pauses for breath, culminating in riffing so strong it makes your ears crackle. Grohl repeats simply: “Goodbye.”
“Think I’m getting over it/But there’s no getting over it,” he sings on Under You, which has more of a bounce to its chorus. “Please don’t worry/I’ll take care of everything from now on/Where are you now?” he sings on Show Me How, sharing vocals with the soft tones of his teenage daughter Violet.
The ballad Rest finishes the album with a painful intimacy, Grohl’s scream reduced to a bleak whisper. But there’s one more giant guitar part to come. This is a mighty new chapter that processes grief with devastating power – howls and sighs and everything in between.