On the 10th studio album from Foo Fighters, they clearly are having a blast. Their latest record is called Medicine At Midnight and is one of their most accessible albums to date. The nine song set clocks in 37 minutes and was produced by Greg Kurstin and the band as well. While the past few Foo Fighters records never had a long lasting impact with me, Medicine At Midnight is one of those “lightning in a bottle” type of moments that feels like something important right from the first listen. In recent interviews, Foo Fighters front-man Dave Grohl likened the direction of this album to David Bowie’s Let’s Dance record by stating, “It’s filled with anthemic, huge, sing-along rock songs. It’s almost like a dance record—not like a EDM, disco, modern dance record. It’s got groove, man.” It’s hard to not share the same optimism for the record after hearing these tracks that are filled with vibrant pop elements that are still fully enriched in Foo Fighters’ long history of making solid rock songs.
Kicking off the record with the perfect song has not always been the Foo Fighters forte, but I’ll be damned if “Making A Fire” isn’t the most appropriate way to launch into this collection of kick-ass rock and roll songs. The track even includes some backing “na na na’s” from Dave Grohl’s daughter, Violet, who impressively commands the space between the verses and choruses with professional ease. Dave Grohl sets the stage for the song in the first verse as he sings, “I’ve been waiting, elevating / Hanging on the line / Hate to say it / Your new favorite’s going out of style / Threw away those broken heroes / They’re just wood and wires / Hallelujah / Spread the news but don’t believe the hype.” It’s almost as if he’s providing a direct disclaimer to his audience that this record is going to sound different than we have come to expect from his band, but also that it’s important to have an open mind and just enjoy a fun rock record. It’s really hard to not be immediately hooked by the material, and this opener eneded up being my favorite track from the entire album.
Lead single, “Shame Shame” follows the blazing opener with a mellower, down-trodden, methodical approach to songwriting with some backing hand claps and starts and stops to the tempo. Much like a train getting revved up for its next stop, the track continues to build momentum as it hits the chorus of, “Another splinter under the skin / Another season of loneliness / I found a reason and buried it / Beneath a mountain of emptiness.” The relatable lyrics tie directly into the feelings of living through this never-ending pandemic, and the band remains tightly in the pocket of making all of the sounds brought together fit.
”Cloudspotter” reminded me of the rock bravado of Queen, with the modern twist of flair from their touring mates The Struts, all blended together with the trademark Alt-Rock packaging that have helped the Foo Fighters climb up the ladder of rock royalty. The riff used on the verses is looped around Grohl’s lyrics perfectly, and the track explodes into a wall of sound at the bridge of “I need to know, but I don’t ask why / Refuse me while I kiss the sky!” It’s one of the most thrilling moments that Foo Fighters have recorded to date, and just adds to the list of memorable rock songs the band has created.
The band follows this terrific song with another recently released single in, “Waiting on a War.” The second verse really struck a chord with me as Grohl croons, “Every day waiting for the sky to fall / Big crash on a world that’s so small / Just a boy with nowhere left to go / Fell in love with a voice on the radio,” since he looks back on his youth with the uncertainty of seeing the world on the cusp of turning terrible, he still uses his love of music to power through to the positive. Music has always been a powerful ally in my own life, and these lyrics are particularly powerful in showcasing the power that a great song can have on changing our outlook. Grohl even shared the context of this song on Twitter by saying, “As a child growing up in the suburbs of Washington DC, I was always afraid of war. I had nightmares of missiles in the sky and soldiers in my backyard, most likely brought upon by the political tension of the early 1980’s and my proximity to the Nation’s Capitol. My youth was spent under the dark cloud of a hopeless future. Last fall, as I was driving my 11 year old daughter to school, she turned to me and asked, ‘Daddy, is there going to be a war?’ My heart sank in my chest as I looked into her innocent eyes, because I realized that she was now living under that same dark cloud of a hopeless future that I had felt 40 years ago. I wrote ‘Waiting On a War’ that day.”
The title track is as close as we’re going to get to a disco-flavored Foo Fighters dance song, and it leaves the listener with the urge to hang on Grohl’s every word. The closing repeated line of “Rain on the dance floor, back against the ropes” provides the image of looking for the silver lining of using music to pick up the pieces as the world crumbles around us. You can directly hear the David Bowie influence on this track, and it even includes some cool drum loops that are rarely used by the veteran rockers.
”No Son of Mine” returns the set back to the fast-paced rock that have been the bread and butter for the band in the greater part of the past two decades. It’s reminiscent of the sound the band went for on the Wasting Light record, and the rip-roaring song wastes little time making it evident that the band are at their best when they learn to let go and trust their songwriting instincts. The guitar solo at the midway point of the song is the biggest standout instance on the song that gives us the “holy shit, this is awesome” moment on an album that has a ton of epic high points.
If the album has a weak spot, it comes in the form of the fairly straight-forward rock song, “Holding Poison.” The track features a lot of intentionally repetitive lyrics, but is still built in the same vein of the “dance rock” that Grohl alluded to during the early promotion cycle of talking about Medicine At Midnight. The guitar solo towards the end of the song prevents the song from drifting too far out of the listeners’ subconscious, and serves the purpose of letting it round out the direction the band went for.
The trippy ballad, “Chasing Birds” is as close as the Foo Fighters have ever come to emulating the styling of the classic rock of Pink Floyd. Grohl sings on the second chorus casually, “Here comes another heart attack / The road to hell is paved with good intentions / Dark inventions of mine / The road to hell is paved with broken parts / Bleeding hearts like mine.” The introspective song drifts eerily along with some dark lyrics that are delivered as if “everything is going to be just fine” as the track closes out like waking up from a dream.
”Love Dies Young” is one of the better album closers the Foo Fighters have ever composed, and the guitar riffs found throughout the song are filled with a steady rhythm that would make Led Zeppelin proud. The bridge’s lyrics of “Never-ending cemeteries, funeral parades / All your dreams are buried in their place” is a powerful closing outlook on the state of living at this moment in time. While it seems as if the world is crumbling under our very foundation, the optimism and up-beat nature of these songs make it feel like everything really will work out. Much like the last minute saviors in a bleak story, Foo Fighters may have found the cure to this strange period of time in our lives with the aptly titled Medicine At Midnight.