With 25 years in the music industry, Foo Fighters have been a consistent fixture for lovers of digestible guitar rock with an edge. Their tenth album, Medicine at Midnight, is their self-proclaimed Saturday night party record, inspired by David Bowie’s Lets Dance, yet heavy guitars and thundering vocals remain as the lynchpin of the album record, bridging a fitting gap with the rest of the band’s back catalogue.
The opening track, ‘Making a Fire’ is packed with the lighter influences which inspired Medicine at Midnight. Inspired by their admiration for bands creating “upbeat, up-tempo, almost danceable records,” elements of the band’s stylistic shift illustrated here are scattered throughout the album. Hearing the pop melodies and the backing of gospel singers on the chorus feels like a strange turn for the band, especially considering how Foo Fighters have spent so much of their time emphasising how dedicated they were to “traditional” rock n roll, rejecting many hallmarks of modern pop.
The titular track, ‘Medicine at Midnight’ is underpinned by funky bass grooves and clicking drums, this is the strongest example of the Foo Fighters grooving experimentation. ‘Love Dies Young’ is another. Catchy and radio-friendly, the title track is one of stronger songs on the record, littered with danceable beats paired with slick guitar solos. ‘Cloudspotter’ with its whispered verses and thumping chorus, utilising the loud/quiet technique, shows the Foo Fighters’ strengths in sticking to their tested formula of stadium filling rock anthems.
Some of the tracks however fall a little flat. Lead single ‘Shame Shame’ falls a little flat in the sense that it doesn’t really go anywhere, nor does it fit in with the rest of the tracks. Slower and more brooding than the album opener, the track fails to capture the same spark and feels like filler, odd for a Foo’s single. ‘Holding Poison’ and ‘Chasing Birds’ are inoffensive, totally devoid of any character or personality.
Despite the peppier musical inspiration, Medicine at Midnight tackles heavy themes. “Is there more to this than that?” asks Grohl on ‘Waiting on a War’ a track which opens as an acoustic crooner before ripping into head-banging guitars and drums. Lyrically the song taps into the fear and concern about escalating global tension and the threat of war. In a press release, Grohl states how the track came about after a disheartening conversation between him and his daughter and called the song their version of ‘Give Peace a Chance’. ‘No Son of Mine’ is a middle finger to the hypocrisy of self-righteous leaders, “No son of mine will ever do the work of villains, the will of fools.”
Well-crafted and musically tight, Medicine at Midnight is a generally palatable record which will work well in the band’s preferred setting of a booming concert. Yet, after decades in the game, Foo Fighters have yet to recapture the urgent energy of their debut or the song crafting beauty of the high watermark reached on ‘Everlong’.