Foo Fighters seek grip and reason, and let go of what is dear to them

No interviews the Foo Fighters wanted to do, the new album should speak for itself. And indeed, if there is one album by the band that needs no explanation, it is But Here We Are. The first Foo Fighters album since the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins last March, is an intense, pure, public mourning from a popular stadium rock band who share a great personal loss with the fans, who in turn have lost someone. In every sentence, behind every swipe, in every drum roll you hear something that refers to loss. To finiteness. Searching for grip, for meaning, for reason. It is an album like a hammer blow, which floods you with unfiltered emotion, from which you really need to recover.

You wish it didn’t take such a terrible tragedy, but it’s the best Foo Fighters album in a very, very long time.

Taylor Hawkins, drummer with the band since 1997, was a much loved musician. The surf dude with his big grin and flowing blonde hair was the second frontman of the Foo Fighters, who could match Grohl’s energy, both in the studio and live. He and Grohl became very good friends, often giving interviews together and then getting really corny. While on tour in March 2022, Hawkins was found dead in Bogotá, Colombia; probably a combination of drugs and heart problems.

Read also: Surf dude Taylor Hawkins was the second frontman of the Foo Fighters

It was never really a question of whether frontman Dave Grohl would continue after Hawkins’ death. Hardened in the Washington DC hardcore punk scene, he grew up on the drum stool in Seattle’s grunge whirlwind as the drummer for Nirvana. He grew up on the biggest stages in the world. That a new album came so soon after Hawkins’ death is unexpected, but it fits his drive.

The Foo Fighters’ first self-titled album was recorded by Grohl on his own, just months after the sudden death of his friend and Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain in 1994. It was a cathartic attempt to cope with his grief, musical therapy. Not surprising so maybe the sound of But Here We Are sometimes reminiscent of that debut. The pure melodies, the sharp focus, the intense lyrics, the dynamics, the few bells and whistles, just great rocking too.

Drum yourself

Grohl has taken up drumming himself again, and despite the quality of new drummer Josh Freese – who is on tour but not yet featured on the album – it is a pleasure to hear Grohl’s punches again. He always hits just a little harder than other drummers, without losing the groove for a single beat.

Foo Fighters with new drummer Josh Freese
Scarlet Page’s photo

At the time of Cobain’s sudden death, Grohl, then age 25, sounded especially angry. ‘I don’t owe you anything!he cried out. Now, as a 54-year rock veteran, he makes more existential points. The title alone: But Here We Are. Here we are, with our good behavior. It is an implied, unspoken curse, defeated by the inevitable. “You must release what you hold dear”, he sings in ‘Beyond Me’. In ‘The Glass’ he invents a new, powerful metaphor for death. He can still see the other from behind glass, but the image is clouded by his own reflection.

The loss of Hawkins is not the only grief Grohl had to bear, his mother Virginia also passed away last year. The album is dedicated to both. The memory of mother and grandmother Grohl can be heard most poignantly in the wonderful ‘Show Me How’, a duet with Grohl’s own daughter Violet – a discovery! – in beautiful harmonies. “I’ll take care of everything from now on”, she sings to him, and then he to her, over a fanciful shoegaze guitar line. “Need not say anything to me, hear you loud and clear.”

Epic track

The late highlight of the album comes afterwards, with ‘The Teacher’, an epic track of over ten minutes. The structure is already beautiful: a subtly stroking cello sets the tone (Grohl knows from recent years with Nirvana how beautifully that combines with alternative rock), until a shrill rattle guitar and unforgivably hard drums come in. What follows is prog rock à la Foo’s: it goes up and down, from left to right, but remains razor sharp in focus.

Sometimes a bit menacing, then subdued, and in all its versatility one real song that should not have been a second shorter. “You showed me how to grieve, never showed me how to say goodbye,” he sings pained. The build-up to the end eventually breaks down into gritty distortion, as Grohl repeats “Goodbye!” screams.

Just keep it dry.

Read also: this interview with Taylor Hawkins surrounding the band’s previous album

“Rest, you will be safe now”, they sing in harmony in the closing ‘Rest’, a tear-jerking beautiful song that starts very small, Grohl and a guitar, and where the sudden wall of sound is painfully hard and cathartic. It’s music that lingers for a long time after it’s over, like the perfume of someone who has long since left.

It is not clear who this number refers to: Hawkins, Grohl’s mother, perhaps also Kurt Cobain, who after all appears in the video with the song – but in it you also see Grohl’s good friend and roadie, Jimmy Swanson, who died in 2008, who also released ‘I Should Have Known’ in 2011. All maybe. That’s the thing about mourning: it never goes away, and new mourning brings up old wounds, and opens. All you can do is try to deal with it. . Grohl and the Foo Fighters do it by pouring all their sadness, anger and – most importantly – fathomless love into songs.