Album Review: Foo Fighters - 'Medicine At Midnight'
Foo Fighters’ 10th album, “Medicine At Midnight” marks the latest entry in a catalog that received its first entry more than a quarter century ago, when the band's self-titled 1995 debut was released. With the exception of an additional guitar part on one song and some background vocals on the album, every instrument was played by the band’s iconic frontman, Dave Grohl.
That’s a stark contrast to the lineup in 2021. Now six members deep, everyone who has previously played on an entire Foos album is still present; every songwriting credited goes to the entire lineup, and the band itself shares a production credit with Greg Kurstin, who has won Grammys for his work with Adele and Beck.
It’s the second record Kurstin has done with the group, following “Concrete and Gold.” The 2017 LP was not without its highlights, “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” specifically, and I’m still partial to “Sunday Rain,” which is sung by drummer Taylor Hawkins, and Paul McCartney takes over behind the kit for that track. But I’m still mixed on that album as a whole.
“Concrete and Gold” was somewhat of an experimental playground for Grohl. The duo Kurstin performs in, the Bird and the Bee, is a favorite of the lead Foo Fighter, and the opportunity to blend the producer’s pop-yet-cool sensibilities with the Foo Fighters' sound intrigued Grohl to the point that Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman and Justin Timberlake are featured guests. But of course, the album still makes clear that it was made by a bandleader who loves Kiss.
Fast forward to “Medicine At Midnight,” and the band has achieved something that finds a perfect balance between the alt-pop sounds Grohl loves from the Bird and the Bee and a typical Foo Fighters album, without sounding like a rehash of the band’s last essential album, 2011’s “Wasting Light.”
But if you had some reservations about this overall excellent album, you’d be forgiven. The first three singles, “Shame Shame, “No Son of Mine” and “Waiting On A War” (the latter is my personal favorite) aren’t the strongest third of the nine-song album.
The direction of which was compared by Grohl to Davie Bowie’s “Last Dance” album, so it’s appropriate that the title track on “Medicine At Medicine” pays obvious homage to the title track on Bowie’s. The guitar solo harkens back to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s solo on Bowie’s classic track.
The lead guitar work is just as memorable on “Holding Poison.” The song’s great hook would not feel out of place on their classic album, 1997’s “The Colour and the Shape,” and the groove is reminiscent of “Dear Rosemary” from “Wasting Light.” The song should have been the lead single.
“Chasing Birds” is reminiscent of Jeff Lynne’s production work on the Beatles’ “Free as a Bird” and it's blatantly Pink Floyd-inspired. The song is a welcomed acoustic gem.
The album concludes with “Love Dies Young,” and while there are no references to Kurt Cobain by name, it’s hard to not associate it with Grohl’s former Nirvana bandmate, who died at just 27-years-old. It’s a song that has elements of Coldplay circa 2011 on “Mylo Xyloto” or Beck’s Kurstin-produced work (think the song "Colors"). And it is the best evidence of why this album, specifically the producer-band collaboration, works so well.
I can't say “Medicine At Midnight” tops “Wasting Light” from 10 years ago, but it’s still excellent, and it’s the exact record the Foo Fighters should have released