By: Amber Bertino
Coming off of a canceled 25th anniversary tour and a delayed album release, the Foo Fighters were ready to make some noise. Medicine at Midnight, released on February 5, 2021, is the tenth studio album from these now well-worn hard rockers, and if it’s a signifier of the future of the Foo Fighters, then they should still have the rock world in the palm of their hands. If you’re a chart person, Medicine at Midnight debuted at #1 on all three Billboard rock charts. Once again, the Foo Fighters proved just why they have been leading the pack for seemingly their entire career, and it is much deserved. Even after 25 years, it is apparent that the Foos are not planning on taking shortcuts when it comes to quality and dedication in their music.
In his typical enthusiastic style, Dave Grohl advertised Medicine at Midnight as a “Saturday-night party album”, which may have been a bit of an overstatement. The record still has its roots firmly planted in that Foo’s style of hard rock we all know and love, and I don’t think anyone is going to be partying to these songs, at least not in the sense that Grohl may have envisioned. This was a similar case with the previous release Concrete and Gold, in which Grohl also claimed that it was a far departure from their typical work. If anything, Medicine at Midnight sounds a bit closer to the classic Foo Fighters sound than Concrete and Gold did. To be fair, there are moments in which you can hear what Grohl was trying to get at- the poppy little riff featured in ‘Love Dies Young’ for example, and of course there are plenty of catchy choruses dished out on this album.
The Foo Fighters excel in making solid albums front to back- they’re probably the only band whose discography I can put on shuffle without wanting to reach for the occasional skip- but where they absolutely shine is live. So, when listening to this album I naturally looked out for what could become live staples. Medicine at Midnight boasts quite a few songs that have great live potential. The “na-na-na” sing along in ‘Making A Fire’ (which features Dave’s daughter Violet on vocals) and the crescendo towards the end of ‘Waiting On A War’, in which Taylor Hawkins unleashes his classic pummeling of the drum kit, would fit perfectly within a Foos set. You can hear why at first they wanted to wait until touring resumed to put this record out. But the band, being astute to the needs of rock lovers, recognized that the people needed some music in these times!
There are many wonderful moments on Medicine at Midnight. The groove in the verses of the title track elicit what I call the “seat shimmies” (is that the dancing Dave was talking about?). ‘Holding Poison’ is an intriguing track, featuring choral vocals and a boppy feel. It suddenly takes a 180 into a driving riff and solo, adding a touch of heaviness. The song which is most impactful to me is ‘Cloudspotter’ which is an absolute triumph. It’s got a bit of bite, and has a very fun chorus: “bang, bang bang!”. The energy of the song takes off into a great little fuzzy guitar break which gradually ramps up with each bark of “cloudspotter!”. Overall, it’s a track that seems to touch on all the flavors of the album. Oh, and just to belabor the point that I love this record, it’s even got the perfect length; nine songs, and I can repeat it without getting bored.
The variations in Medicine at Midnight come in small doses and little details, but this makes the tracks fresh without it feeling like listening to a stranger. What does stand out as more obvious is how upbeat this record is, and I think that is where the party comparison rings true. Other than the dreamy acoustic number ‘Chasing Birds’, there is a fire lit under these songs. Even the droning and bluesy ‘Shame Shame’ has its build up moments and anthemic chorus. It’s truly a pick me up in these dark times, and for that, it is an enjoyable- and at times a downright joyful- listen.
And isn’t that what the Foo Fighters are made to do? They are a band that thrives off of the celebration of music, whether it be through their massive live shows, their emotive and universally enjoyable songs, or their enthusiasm for their work and fellow musicians. Dave Grohl is an absolute firecracker who wears his passion for his craft on his sleeve, and his down-to-Earth attitude is refreshing in an industry where sincerity can be elusive. Similarly, Medicine at Midnight is a much welcomed pick me up and yet another testament to the enduring likability of the Foo Fighters. So yes, maybe Medicine at Midnight can be a party, Foo Fighters style!