Foo Fighters – Medicine At Midnight (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 36:32 minutes | 455 MB | Genre: Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © RCA Records Label
Foo Fighters have been a reliable alt-rock institution for more than 25 years. A band with that kind of august track record could get bored or complacent with their job. But Dave Grohl and Co. just keep happily chugging along, putting out solid-to-great records, satisfying their enormous fan base with killer stadium shows, and keeping things fresh for themselves by coming up with interesting concepts (like their 2014 HBO doc series/album Sonic Highways) and tossed-off collaborations with pals like Justin Timberlake, Rick Astley, or Serj Tankian.
The Foos’ 10th album is upbeat even by their uniquely well-adjusted standards, returning to their core Nineties alt-rock sound minus any gimmicks, detours, or shenanigans.
From the first track, “Making a Fire,” the album is brighter and more optimistic than anything they’ve ever done. As Grohl commands a slippery guitar riff that ascends toward the heavens, a choir of women sings a sunny “na-na-na” refrain, leading to a foot-stomping, hand-clapping gospel breakdown and his latest lyrical confession, “I’ve waited a lifetime to live.” Then there are even more na-na-na’s, which, incidentally, aren’t by a choir at all, but the LP’s most notable guest, Dave’s teenage daughter, Violet, who recorded her own harmonies. Whether it’s a sense of paternal pride or sheer determination, Grohl sounds reinvigorated here, and that enthusiasm is the group’s guiding light on the record.
Time is not on the side of any arena-dwelling alt-rock rock band celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Hey, survival is itself an accomplishment: Bands don’t hang around for ten minutes, let alone ten years, unless they have consistently activated the pleasure receptors in lots and lots of brains. But the minute a band as an operation begins to market its gold-watch milestones, 25 years of loyal service and all that, the next release inevitably becomes a referendum on relevance.
That’s where the erstwhile Foo Fighters find themselves as they launch the alternately raucous and meticulously arranged Medicine at Midnight. The band’s tenth studio album was completed in March of 2020, and was intended as the centerpiece of an elaborate 25th anniversary tour. Both were derailed by the pandemic.
So here we are in Foo Year 26, contemplating what this band—revered by some for its snappy hook-abundant songwriting, dismissed by some as pop candy peddlers with fine tattoos—has to offer the post-rock post-pandemic post-everything world.
Start with the question of energy. The introductory splat/roar drum pattern of opening track “Making a Fire” comes at you feral and heedless, challenging stasis in all forms. Couple that beat with the industrial-strength guitar, and it becomes a provocation built on sonic abrasion, one that lives a billion miles from lockdown caution. But it’s never exclusively that: When, on the disarmingly lovely pre-chorus, Dave Grohl asks “Are you afraid of the dark?” his voice is that of an art-rock trickster savoring the twists and turns of a game, not some aging belter making desperation plays for salvation.
That character comes out later. And when it does, in the turbulent finale of “Waiting on a War” and a few other places, Grohl does not hold anything back. “Waiting,” with its all-purpose almost generic question—”Is there more to this than that?”—addresses conflict in many forms, from the idylls of childhood to the mob at the Capitol (just wait, someone will splice together that footage using this as the soundtrack). The genius of this track is in its measured ramp-up, from the acoustic-guitar verses into the declarative refrain and then a surging, rampaging, brilliantly executed accelerando. As the tempo rises so does the menace in Grohl’s pre-shredded voice, and that, in turn, transforms the question into a taunt, a mantra, then finally a pulse-quickening showdown with the existential abyss.
That track and a few others—the Bowie-influenced “Shame Shame,” the prog-metal “No Son of Mine”—suggest that this veteran band is still immersed in creative exploration. And even when making those highly bankable familiar Foo Fighter noises, they do so in inventive ways, veering away from the predictable on eight out of the nine tracks. The throwaway is the numbing anthem “Love Dies Young;” in a veteran move, it’s helpfully placed at the album’s end, making it easy to skip. – Tom Moon
01. Foo Fighters – Making A Fire
02. Foo Fighters – Shame Shame
03. Foo Fighters – Cloudspotter
04. Foo Fighters – Waiting On A War
05. Foo Fighters – Medicine At Midnight
06. Foo Fighters – No Son Of Mine
07. Foo Fighters – Holding Poison
08. Foo Fighters – Chasing Birds
09. Foo Fighters – Love Dies Young