HEAVY HITTERS UP FRONT. STAR PRODUCERS IN BACK.
FOO FIGHTERS — ‘Concrete and Gold’
THE GOOD: American rock mainstays Foo Fighters are back with their ninth.
THE BAD: There’s no such thing as a BAD Foo Fighters album, but there are no totally awesome ones either. “Concrete and Gold” fits comfortably in the catalog without making too many waves.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Working with producer Greg Kurstin (the Bird and the Bee, Adele, Sia), Dave Grohl and the boys crank out their finest melodies in quite some time. Tracks such as “Make It Right” and “The Line” pack a mighty punch while sucking us in with truly infectious tunes.
Kurstin also helps the band expand its musical palette a little. “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” becomes a rousing sing-along. “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)” is an effective, genuine ballad. “Dirty Water” feels like a study in light and shadow. Guests ranging from the Kills’ Alison Mosshart to Paul McCartney show up without hogging the spotlight. “Concrete” remains your standard Foo fare — loud, crunchy and reliable.
BUY IT?: Sure.
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE — ‘Villains’
THE GOOD: The American rockers get funky on their seventh.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Villains” finds the guys working with “Uptown Funk” producer Mark Ronson, and one definitely picks up on his rhythmic presence. Don’t panic; he doesn’t turn frontman Josh Homme and company into a disco outfit (although this band could pull that off), but he does tighten up matters and make the beats much more prominent.
From the pure rock swagger of lead single “The Way You Used To Do” to the slightly progressive yet in-the-pocket, funky-as-hell “The Evil Has Landed,” the band takes us on a wildly unpredictable trip. Somehow, it stretches musically and lets the songs go off in unexpected directions (many blowing well past the 5-minute mark) while still giving us something infectious and accessible. That’s a delicate balance not easily attained. Yet, it happens all throughout “Villains,” a brash rock record unafraid to step outside straight anticipated lines.
BUY IT?: Yes.
LIAM GALLAGHER — ‘As You Were’
THE GOOD: After being the bad-boy frontman for both Oasis and Beady Eye, British singer and sometimes songwriter Liam Gallagher gives us his first proper solo album.
THE BAD: Gallagher may have been the star out front, but what made his most famous former band great were his brother’s songs. Without Noel Gallagher, “As You Were” sometimes comes off as a half-baked Oasis set.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Still, the record has its charms. Liam Gallagher teamed up with a few writers, the most prominent being Greg Kurstin (the Bird and the Bee, Beck, Pink). So the material IS good, and it’s tough to resist the combination of that voice and big hooks on tracks such as the raucous “Wall of Glass” and the delicate “For What It’s Worth” — solid pop-rock indeed. Very majestic and very British.
There are a couple of duds along the way, but the bright spots outnumber the forgettable bits. So let’s just call “As You Were” an accomplished first try and leave it at that.
BUY IT?: Your call.