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The death of Taylor Hawkins was a shock. The ebullient drummer was snatched away in 2022 – too young, too talented – leaving fans, family and friends to deal with the aftermath. A year on, his band Foo Fighters have channelled all that grief into a record that serves as a conduit to catharsis. Melding heartache with defiance, But Here We Are addresses the loss of Hawkins, as well as the death of frontman Dave Grohl’s mother, Virginia. It’s their best album in years.
“We’re not here to save rock’n’roll,” Hawkins told The Independent in a 2019 interview, and that pretty much summed up the band’s approach. Their self-proclaimed dad rock has, in the second half of their career, been more about keeping fans happy than any grand attempt at reinvention. The riffs were heavy; Grohl rarely strayed from his gravelly bellow. As a band, they are stolid and safe, mixing alt-rock tropes with lyrics about overcoming life’s obstacles.
But Here We Are, however, comes closest to channelling the Foos’ second album The Colour and the Shape, at least in the way it balances up-tempo rock anthems with poignant ballads. Grohl, usually not one for subtlety, sounds startlingly fragile on “The Glass”, as though numb with the shock of sudden loss.
“I had a person I loved, and just like that/ I was left to live without him,” he sings in a voice like worn leather, over grinding riffs and a rainstorm of percussion. He’s more energised on the grunge-laden intro to “The Teacher”, a tribute to Virginia, who taught English and once wrote a book about being a rock star’s mum: “Hey kid, what’s the plan for tomorrow?”
On the reverb-heavy “Show Me How”, Grohl is joined by his daughter, Violet, who evokes Phoebe Bridgers with her ghostly harmonies: “I’ll take care of everything, from now on.” Closer “Rest” could have been written in the immediate aftermath of Hawkins’s death. It’s raw and deeply moving.
There’s a warmth to the guitar on the final track that emulates Hawkins’s own sunbeam nature. Grohl’s vocals are a tender half-whisper: “Life is just a game of luck/ All this time escaping us/ Until our time is through.” Over bursts of distortion, he bawls, “Rest, you will be safe now”, before his parting words drop back to a murmur: “Waking up, I had another dream of us, in the warm Virginia sun, there I will meet you.” As a tribute, and a farewell, it could hardly be better.