By: Nicholas Palmer
If you’ve ever considered yourself a lover of all types of musical genres, then you’ve probably heard of the Foo Fighters before. And, if you consider yourself a rock music enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard one of their singles, even if you haven’t dabbled in the band’s records. As such, with the band only continuing their legendary success with a nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the question someone would ask themselves is: where does a band with a 25-year legacy go from here? How does a group so imprinted in the rock and roll genre possibly reimagine itself?
Therein lies their 10th album, Medicine at Midnight. A party-pop, dance album that takes both elements that the group has worked on before and also completely walks away from that. Going for the more sing-along pop-rock kind of songs, this album definitely feels constructed under the idea of sing-along concert venue songs. And, with those being on hiatus indefinitely, this album for fans is the next best thing to attending a live performance. With writing beginning after a brief hiatus in 2018, and with some ghostly stints in the recording process at a 1940s house (I personally would look up the story to hear some of the testimonies from the bandmates) the album was finished rather quick, but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The band would then later decide to release the album to lift sprits regardless, with it releasing February 5th, 2021.
Songs that really grabbed my attention and represented much of the high points on this album were: “Cloudspotter,” “Holding Poison,” and, one of the singles, “Waiting on a War.” “Cloudspotter,” the third track on the album, is so unique to me in part due to its percussion and vocals. The harmonization between Dave Grohl and the female voice is beautiful, and the deep voice mumbling ‘cloudspotter’ was almost chilling. As well, the buildup into the final chorus, along with the yelling and explosive vocals, help give this album its first real jolt of energy and provides a great experience.
“Holding Poison,” the 7th track on the album, does a lot of word painting around its lyrics that adds a fun layer to the song on the whole. When the word ‘down’ gets sung, the melody goes down and when the lead singer sings ‘around and around’ the harmonic progression continues to get higher and higher as if the listener is being spun around and around. As well, during the guitar solo section, which on its own is a very nice addition to the song to help break up any sort of monotony, there’s a sort of choral vocal element in the background which just adds that extra layer of interest to the song. In essence, this song builds upon the percussive and melodic elements before it, but takes a lot of interesting turns that create unexpected and uplifting moments throughout.
Finally, there’s the single “Waiting on a War.” It was by far my favorite song on the album. A definite concert song, Dave Grohl stated that he wrote the song in relation to his past growing up in the Cold War era, where the threat of war was always possible. This is reflected in the line “everyday waiting for the sky to fall” with the threat of nuclear destruction always leering over the head of past generations. Besides its strong message, the whisking voice carries this almost ghostly present of the past, with acoustic guitar definitely giving it a reflective feeling. The ending, however, is a must listen to. As different instruments were added throughout the song, they come together for an explosive finale with typical rock elements as the tone turns from bleak to hopeful. Climatic and tumultuous; maybe society can keep waiting on a war just a little more.
While I mostly enjoyed the album, there were some critiques I had with the album on the whole. While I had no issues with the performance, nor the instrumentation on the album altogether, there were elements that ,when taken with the rest of the album, created a less than perfect listening experience. One of those being that a lot of the instrumentals were similar throughout the whole album. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but by the time you reach the ninth and final song on the album “Love Dies Young,” you start to feel like you have already heard the beginning section somewhere else in a different song. Moreover, while every chorus felt unique and different, that was only true if you examined each individually. A lot of the time, many songs by the final chorus felt repetitive. And with many having a four plus minute runtime, this felt like it didn’t need to be so.
Overall, as someone who has never fully explored Foo Fighters discography before and as someone not that familiar with their music, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised by this album. With this being their 10th studio album, it seems to me and general listening audiences that this album did not drastically change or reshape anyone’s perceptions of Foo Fighters. In this point in their career, however, maybe that’s okay. Being inducted into the hall of fame and having countless charted singles and awards, it seems at this point all the members need do is write music that pleases them and their fans. Hopefully, fans of Foo Fighters can hear these pieces, especially the real treasurable ones in concert soon. Until then, give this album a concert-like listen in your own house — your own personal medicine at midnight.