Thursday, 24 August 2017

Single Review | Foo Fighters | 'The Sky is a Neighborhood' (2017)

image source(s): foo fighters & tumblr

Foo Fighters do love to toy with my emotions. They dropped a surprise second single – ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’ -- yesterday (24 August) with an accompanying music video, after teasing us with a cryptic constellation gif on Tuesday. Whether coincidental or not, the release of this track also came a day after the spectacular total solar eclipse in North America. ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’ is just as remarkable, and is one of Foo Fighters most advantageous compositions to date.

The boys flip a complete 180 in terms of tempo, vibe and melody with ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’, especially after being hit with their heaviest track yet – and first single off their ninth record Concrete and Gold – ‘Run’ at the beginning of June.

There is an astounding difference in both the production and composition of ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’, whilst retaining that certain Foo Fighters-esce sound. You can tell both songs are from the same album – courtesy of legendary pop-producer Greg Kurstin – but it seems that the band are striving to expand their sound and create a unique record with the melding of six hard rock musicians and one producer notably known for producing the likes of Adele, Sia, Ellie Goulding and Lily Allen. Through this combination, ‘The Sky is a Neighbourhood’ inhibits a slow, jazzy beat and melody contrasting with heavy, reverb-driven guitars and a raw lead vocal. It’s something to sway and headbang to simultaneously.

Grohl mentions in RCA’s press release for the track that he’d realized ‘we’d actually done what we set out to do: to make this gigantic Foo Fighters record but with […] Kurstin’s sense of jazz and melody and arrangement, something we’d never done before.” If ‘The Sky is a Neighbourhood’ is only one example of this, I cannot wait to hear the remaining nine songs on Concrete and Gold.
‘Run’ was produced to burst your eardrums, whilst ‘The Sky is a Neighbourhood’ was recorded in one afternoon with a raw quality – especially on Dave’s vocals – much like the analogue recording process of Wasting Light in 2011. The track has an intense live feel, heightening the emotion and other-worldly subject matter. As stated in the press release:

“Described by Grohl as ‘the biggest thing sonically we’ve ever done’, ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’ is […] the piece de resistance that effectively completed […] Concrete and Gold.” The band utilize a contrast between hard rock and the orchestral (something they experimented with on 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace), whilst also hearkening back to the explosive instrumental outro of the lost classic ‘A320’ within the two instrumental breaks.

The meaning behind ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’ is crazily similar to how I look at constellations and the universe, a thought that has been with me ever since I was a kid. Both in the press release and a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Grohl explores his thoughts on humans being an amalgamation of atoms that comprise life being linked to the beginnings of the universe. Combined with internal thoughts and inspiration from an interview with legendary astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Grohl was astoundingly moved:

“The atoms that comprise life on Earth and make up the human body are traceable to the beginnings of our universe,” Grohl says [in the Rolling Stone interview]. “Stars that go unstable and collapse and explode and just scatter their guts, their fundamental ingredients of life are all over the universe and forming solar systems and stars orbiting planets have the ingredients of for life itself. And when you look up at the night sky, you realise that you’re not only part of the universe, but the universe is part of us. It really moves me."

What moves me is the chorus; the swell of voices sounding like a crowd, the strange melodic pattern of the vocals … whatever it is it gives me chills each time I hear it. It’s definitely a contender of being my favourite set of chorus lyrics from Foo Fighters.

The accompanying music video is another masterpiece directed by Grohl, featuring two of his daughters – eleven-year-old Violet and eight-year-old Harper (I cannot believe how old they are now). Grohl gives a fantastic account of what it was like directing his children on set in his interview with Rolling Stone, and how low-key his life is at home with his kids. Violet and Harper aren’t aiming to be actresses or performers; they believed it was about time that they were allowed to take part in one of their Dad’s videos. What kind of kid wouldn’t want to be suspended from a cabin roof and pretend their levitating.

The set design combined with Dave’s directorial prowess and director of photography Brandon Trost, the video for the track screams Stranger Things mixed with a little X-Files. From the multi-coloured lights and levitation to the UFO strewn sky towards the end and the hypnotic visuals, it’s no surprise that Foo Fighters – and Grohl especially – would eventually produce this type of video.

A twenty-year-old trippy dream of Grohl’s where the stars transformed into millions of swarming UFOs was the foundation for the video (hence the light show at the end), but it was also brought along through Grohl’s directorial experience and influences. He utilized a practical set instead of CGI, stating in Rolling Stone that, “… something like a theatre set would have more of a dreamlike quality than something thrown together in a computer in CGI. It’s a very simple video, but it’s beautiful in its scope and colour.”

Along with the music video, the band have concocted one of the most crazily brilliant ways to make ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’ even more immersive … by producing a constellation viewer. You can only do this from your phone, but if you go to and configure your phone (by facing North), you’ll be able to point your phone at the night sky and have the site identify constellations right in front of you. This is accompanied by the band singing the track on top of the cabin roof at the bottom of the screen.

Foo Fighters can never keep an album under wraps once it’s close to completion, hence why ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’ had already been heard live earlier this year. Out of the eleven songs on the record, five songs have already debuted on various stages across the world. On their recent summer festival tour of Europe and Asia, they have performed ‘La Dee Da’, ‘Sunday Rain’ and ‘Dirty Water' (via Consequence of Sound).

If that and the eventual release of Concreate and Gold, wasn’t enough, the band’s concert at the historic Acropolis will air as a concert film on November 10 on PBS (in America, no word yet of when it will air in the UK).

Watch and listen to ‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’ below.

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