Acoustic Sounds

Foo Fighters

But Here We Are



"But Here We Are" Foo Fighters

Label: Roswell Records

Produced By: Greg Kurstin and Foo Fighters

Engineered By: Foo Fighters

Mixed By: Mark "Spike" Stent

Mastered By: Randy Merrill at Sterling Sound, Edgewater, NJ

Lacquers Cut By: Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound, Nashville, TN

By: Nathan Zeller

June 24th, 2023



Foo Fighters’ “But Here We Are” Grieves Longtime Drummer Taylor Hawkins’ Unforeseen Passing

foo fighters tailor repressed emotions into fantastic music

Brotherhood kills two birds with one stone. The first bird climbs high altitudes, showing no hesitation. This bird possesses two key qualities: strength and valiancy. Strength—the ability to grapple the truth—compliments valiancy. Above the clouds one finds the first bird. It soars despite the truth: if it falls, the ground takes its life. On the ground one finds the second bird, the first bird’s antithesis. Whilst the first bird aims beyond the sky, the second bird “plays it safe.” With dead leaves, wounded animals, and self-inflicted limitations, this bird nestles the Earth’s floor. This bird dooms itself. These two birds symbolise brotherhood’s blessings and faults. Inevitably, a brotherhood’s members embody each bird, for a member’s passing consumes all solidity, vigour, and jubilation. As all brightness cloaks festering darkness, this reality maintains the union’s balance. With drummer Taylor Hawkins’ shocking mid-tour death, Foo Fighters—an honorary brotherhood—embodied the second bird. However, with But Here We Are the remaining Foo Fighters take flight, visiting Taylor Hawkins’ heavenly resting place. 

The day was March 25th, 2022. Estéreo Picnic, a South American music festival, prepares Foo Fighters a welcoming stage. Mere hours pre-performance, Taylor Hawkins experiences severe chest pains. A year prior, his doctor observed Hawkins’ double size heart, though saw no threat. The doctor called it a “runner’s heart.” After much contemplation, Hawkins phoned for help. Upon arrival, medical staff declared Hawkins dead. Cardiac arrest stole a well-loved friend and artist. Rather than perform, Foo Fighters and Estéreo Picnic held a candlelight vigil. Days later, Foo Fighters cancelled all upcoming shows.

The following fall brought two tribute concerts. The first, held at London’s Wembley Stadium, featured amongst others Dave Chappelle, Stewart Copeland, John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and Paul McCartney. The second, held at Los Angeles' Kia Forum, featured Jack Black, Miley Cyrus, Nancy Wilson, Chad Smith, Patrick Wilson, and others. Some artists even performed both concerts. Exhausted and emotionally shattered, Foo Fighters took a long-overdue break.

Then, amidst the darkness a sliver of light appeared; Foo Fighters announced springtime festival performances.  Months later, the light brightened; Foo Fighters introduced their new drummer, Josh Freese: a previous Weezer, Guns N’ Roses, and Sting drummer. Shortly after, the band released But Here We Are: an album honouring Taylor Hawkins, their lost brother. 

But Here We Are’s sequencing is key. The album chronologically depicts a grieving band. They describe the album’s first single and opener, “Rescued,” as “the first of 10 songs that run the emotional gamut from rage and sorrow to serenity and acceptance.” No better description exists. Mesmeric stereo-panned guitars craft an instrumental nest from which Dave Grohl’s tremendously emotional vocals soar. He wastes no time; atop intense drums, gritty guitars, and driving bass, Grohl screams his reaction to Hawkins’ passing (“It came in a flash/It came out of nowhere/It happened so fast/And then it was over”). When the song’s ending simplifies the chorus lyric “I’m just waiting to be rescued” into the insistent “Rescue me tonight,” Grohl loses all composure. This cues the second single, “Under You.” Imitating John Lennon, grim lyrics envelop this radio friendly tune (“Someone said I’ll never see your face again/Part of me just can’t believe it’s true”). Grohl proclaims he’s “under Hawkins,” meaning he’s still processing his passing. With “Hearing Voices” the sentiment continues. A haunting instrumental and emphatically repeated lyrics (“No one cries like you,” “No one lies like you,” “I’ve been hearing voices” and the vulnerable “Speak to me, my love”) depict grief capturing the singer. The song’s unsettling nature awakens each listener’s lost soul, forcing an empathetic perspective. It’s brilliant. 

By comparison, the title track feels surface level. Whilst the preceding tracks dove deep emotionally, “But Here We Are” breaks little ground. Though it showcases an anthemic instrumental, the lyrics muster only one idea: perseverance. Of course, the title alone delivers that. Consequently, there’s wasted lyrical real estate.

“The Glass” is anything but wasted. The song—containing acoustic guitars, a refreshing change—analogises the life and death barrier as glass, which Dave Grohl examines. No stranger to death having lost Kurt Cobain, Taylor Hawkins, and his mother, Grohl realises how he clearly views death (“There is something between us/I see right through, I see right through”). He also accepts his mortality (“Waitin’ for the storm to pass/Waitin’ on this side of the glass”). It’s a fascinating, though saddening listen.

If “The Glass” shows Dave Grohl’s calmness and acceptance, “Nothing At All” quickly redirects the narrative. After the tight, controlled opening groove, this song turns chaotic. The lyrics follow, its wildness matching the music (“Maybe I’m delusional/Is that so unusual,” “I’ll get by or maybe I won’t/I can lie and say that I don’t,” and “Peace of mind, it’s a bit too late”).  Foo Fighters make sure the listener understands acceptance isn’t that easy. Featuring guest vocalist Violet Grohl, “Show Me How” with its broken, dissonant chords represents the previous song’s shattered persona. The father-daughter duet is exceptionally special. Dave Grohl—without his best friend—wonders who’ll lead him now (“Where are you now/Who will show me how”). His daughter responds, singing “I’ll take care of everything.” It beautifully demonstrates our children as our closest friends, especially when past friends disappear.

On “Beyond Me,” Dave Grohl envisions between himself and Taylor Hawkins a final conversation. Emulating Paul McCartney’s “Here Today,” Hawkins’ spirit offers Grohl wisdom (“Everything we love must grow old” and “You must release what you hold dear”), though also lets his old friend go (“But it’s beyond me/Forever young and free”). The instrumentation matches the sentiment, from a gentle hug (plucked guitars and piano) to a glorious farewell (roaring guitars).

“The Teacher,” a ten minute Rush-influenced rollercoaster, is the album’s centrepiece. The first stage solemnly explores life’s fragility and our impending expiration (“Who’s at the door now” and “Can’t stop this if I wanted to”). A feedback loop initiates the second stage, which addresses life’s frighteningly short duration (“Hurry now boy, time won’t wait/The here and now will separate/There are some things you cannot choose/Soul and spirit moving through”). The third stage slows down, showcasing demoralised lyrics (“Try and make good with the air that’s left” and “Every page turns, it’s a lesson learned in time/You showed me how to need, but never showed me how to say goodbye”). Not before long, the ghostly guitars change time signature. Dave Grohl repeatedly screams “Goodbye.” White noise grows louder and louder until the song suddenly cuts.

As a funeral follows death, “Rest” follows “The Teacher.” This closing track shatters the listener. Its opening lyrics, “Wakin’ up, bottom of an empty cup/Layin’ in your favourite clothes chosen just for you,” describe a coffin-ridden perspective. Dave Grohl sings directly to Taylor Hawkins (“Rest, you can rest now/Rest, you will be safe now”), comforting his spirit. The song primarily features a gentle, demo-like acoustic guitar accompaniment, though one final distorted guitar explosion portrays Grohl’s emotional release. By its end, the album shreds the listener as if they’ve lost their own friend. 

As per usual, vinyl offers a superior listening experience. However, But Here We Are’s vinyl release is a “best of the worst” scenario. Similar to 2021’s Medicine At Midnight, But Here We Are faces outrageous compression. It slaughters the sound quality. Expect very little or no instrumental/vocal decay; compression chokes the record. Additionally, But Here We Are’s imaging disappoints. Instrumental placement is mostly unidentifiable, though acoustic tracks suffer less. Vocals sound unacceptably thin and brittle. Cymbals are the worst affair. During fast portions and between strikes they unnaturally “cut.” High resolution streaming better exemplifies these sonic issues, though vinyl is only marginally better. Most apparently, vinyl sounds more breathable and dynamic. The vinyl master also improves soundstage depth, though the mix is quite narrow. Unfortunately, shoddy pressing quality restrains these improvements.

Foo Fighters offer black and white vinyl, though Sterling Sound’s Ryan K. Smith mastered both. There are Pallas and MRP (Memphis Record Pressings) variants. This review evaluated a white MRP pressing, bearing an audible scuff and embedded dirt specks. The Pallas variant likely boasts higher pressing quality, though that’s speculation. Surface noise ranges from minor to overbearing; during quieter moments it’s noticeably worse. The record is adequately heavy (149 grams), flat, and centred. The labels are uncreased and untorn. Nevertheless, this pressing remains a “best of the worst” scenario. 

The album cover harks back to The Beatles’ eponymous release, The White Album. With a centred, horizontal wave its white artwork is minimalistic. Text is similarly light, though perhaps a tad illegible. The back cover provides the track listing, credits, and a Taylor Hawkins and Virginia Grohl dedication. The inner sleeve is glossy cardstock, also displaying a slightly-visible wave. The jacket contains a lyric sheet, though it holds no credits. Overall, RCA poorly executed the physical release. Considering the album’s surrounding circumstances, this is especially disappointing.

Last year was Foo Fighters’ insurmountable year. Loss plagued the band, destroying motivation, inspiration, and opportunity. This year sings a different tune. Now, Foo Fighters overcome their misfortune, no doubt making their lost loved ones proud. But Here We Are magnificently illustrates perseverance. Navigating life’s difficult times is terribly important. When life breaks one down, the opportunity to properly rebuild oneself arises. Everyone likes a fresh start. In a sense, that’s precisely what Foo Fighters offer. But Here We Are dissects loss and subsequent rebirth, breaking and rebuilding its listener upon a stronger, more conscious foundation.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: 19658-80113-1

Pressing Plant: Memphis Record Pressing

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 140 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-06-25 02:02:43 PM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    The compression is a real problem, and I agree with your assessment of sound quality. I guess Grohl approved, or even initiated, the extremely light print of the liner notes. They are almost unreadable.

  • 2023-06-26 03:16:06 PM

    Cliff Beard wrote:

    Must admit, my copy from the UK doesn't sound as woeful as you describe, so hopefully those this side of the Atlantic are better. Yes it's a fairly typical, compressed rock sound but actually is a good listen and a pretty quiet, flat disc. I can't see where it's just says made in the EU! I think the album is brilliant and a compelling listen.

    • 2023-06-26 03:29:14 PM

      Nathan Zeller wrote:

      I’ll bet that’s the Pallas pressing. I’m very glad there’s a better variant out there; I hope everybody reading this review scrolls down to see your comment. This wonderful album certainly deserves better pressing quality than what I experienced!