Album Review: Foo Fighters – Medicine At Midnight

6/10

Foo Fighters Medicine At Midnight

It’s impossible to be offended or actively dislike Foo Fighters; not only is Dave Grohl so nice (you may have heard), but they are good musicians and are doing it for love. You can see the glee as they play.

Their hearts are most definitely in the right place, which makes it a bit cruel to tear into them. It’s like putting your own dog down. It’s bang out of order, in fact.

But…It has to be said that they aren’t the most musically challenging act around. In terms of longevity, fanbase and record sales, only Radiohead are comparable, and you won’t be surprised to learn that’s where this comparison ends.

A great singles act for sure but, aside from their first few attempts, no record by the band is likely to trouble an all-time hit list. And that’s fine. It’s a winning formula that keeps their fans happy, as their perennial headline status demonstrates.

We don’t have headline acts right now though, so we have to judge them on the music. If you want comfort, step right in. Anyone seeking anything other than thorough and comprehensive expectation management should move along.

That’s not to say it’s entirely the band’s fault; if they went too experimental now it would just look weird and cynical, and they seem to have no intention of doing so. The ship to pastures new has not only sailed but it’s nearly back. What is presumably the most comfortable of comfort zones is packed to the rafters.

One finds that Foo Fighters have quite interesting backstories for their albums (the one with a track recorded in different cities; the half electric/half acoustic one etc) which go some way to making up for the relative paucity of new ideas.

On the basis of Medicine At Midnight, Grohl and co are so bored of sounding like Foo Fighters that they are looking elsewhere but finding nothing other than mainstream rock suits them. There is good work here, but virtually all of it is intently, specifically and proudly designed to sound like someone else for a bit, but they seem unable to stop themselves from Foo Fighterizing it.

Once again aligning with pop-rock’s safest pair of hands, Greg Kurstin (Liam Gallagher, Paul McCartney, Adele), it’s all very safe. This is the pop one.

It doesn’t start that way: Making A Fire was the first track recorded for the album and was the catalyst for trying to make the record more groove-based (apparently), and it’s a bit of a surprise to hear female vocalists before Mr Grohl’s familiar tones take over. There are some interesting chord choices, there’s handclaps…it’s good fun. Second track and lead single Shame Shame is a slight departure for the band, lower-key, uncertain but still with a memorable hook.

There the surprises pretty much end. The title-track does have some slinky bass, Nile Rodgers-style guitar and so is a bit Bowie-disco, but there’s the crux; Dave Grohl has already said that’s what he was going for, and from that perspective it’s a relative success. But does flagging up the influences compensate for the lack of originality? That’s for the listener to decide.

No Son Of Mine is feel good rock music of the type that Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and…the others have built their career on, but you’ve heard it before.

Waiting On A War is acoustic-led, delicate and has accompanying strings…then the rest plug in and it becomes A N Other Foo Fighters song. Cloudspotter is a bit funky and a bit Whitesnake, Holding Poison is blah and Chasing Birds certainly stakes a claim for best solo-Beatles (specifically mid-70’s Lennon) imitation.

Closing track Love Dies Young (a great title for a Bond film) gallops anthemically and is their attempt at mixing a bit of The Cure with Muse’s epic Knights Of Cydonia but is, y’know, Foo Fighters-y.

At the beginning of Medicine At Midnight you’re pleased to hear a friendly, comforting voice. By the end of the nine tracks and under-forty-minutes, you’ve remembered why you only speak to them occasionally. Foo Fighters are undeniably good at what they do. The fans will like it. The radio will like it.

Hell, despite the tone, your reviewer quite likes it. Even if he never listens to it again.

Richard Bowes
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One Response

  1. Motto 5 February, 2021

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