Album Review: Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

[Roswell Records/RCA; 2023]

But Here We Are is a grief album. There’s no way of getting around that and, thankfully, the band don’t even try to hide it. There is nothing fancy and ambiguous about the words Dave Grohl has put to paper, neither is there any of the above inherent in the music the band have recorded. Foo Fighters have created an authentically evocative journey through the grieving process, leaving no emotional stone unturned and making anybody who happens to press play feel absolutely everything.

It’s hard not to feel the shock and trauma felt by Grohl on opening track “Rescued”, and the following “Under You” perfectly encapsulates post-loss confusion; the rollercoaster ride of days and weeks that have no set pattern or even logic to them, leaving one wondering when normality will return. Indeed, Grohl, in the short space of three lines, flips from certainty he’s moving forward to guessing he will someday. Similarly, “The Glass” is achingly despairing at both the finality of death and the idea that the loved one is still there somehow, but separated by something unfathomable.

“The Teacher” feels like a thematic centrepiece, its 10-minute run time allowing Foo Fighters to cover some more ground. There’s an undercurrent of darkness that surrounds the song, giving way to a crescendo of static and fuzz which I can only describe as the musical equivalent of numbness. It’s a surprising attention to detail, but one that helps deliver the emotional punch. On the other hand, I’m still unsure whether “Rest” is referring to those who have gone, or those left behind who’ve experienced the cluster of emotions that follow that kind of trauma. 

Setting aside the context for the tiniest of moments – admittedly a hard task when talking about the album – But Here We Are sounds like the best thing Foo Fighters have done for a fair amount of time. It eschews the branching out experiments of the last few albums to return to a core sound that doesn’t feel like a forced attempt at tapping into nostalgia, something you can argue cropped up a few times in songs over the past decade. There’s a simplicity to so much of the music on this record that it actually serves to enhance the emotions being conveyed rather than limit them. Sometimes one note – or, more accurately with But Here We Are, one chord – can be more effective than an intricate passage. The music avoids being overbearing and overpowering the words. By doing that, Foo Fighters sound as immediate and urgent as they did in the late 90s. 

It almost feels wrong to critically analyse But Here We Are. Should we really assess art that is so personal and made to provide catharsis to a band and fan base? A record born out of tragedy that exists to provide an emotional release maybe shouldn’t be viewed critically in the same way other albums are. But Here We Are is such an honest and raw record that it’s hard to judge but easy to feel and empathise with, especially if a listener has been anywhere near the grieving process. It’s a monument to those the band have lost, and by extension the listener too, but also a dedication to those left behind who have to adapt and recover through the worst kind of pain, documenting the entire journey.