Kicking off 2021 with a bang, Foo Fighters decided to shake things up a bit with their 10th studio album, “Medicine at Midnight.”
The band offered a taste of their new sound Nov. 7 with the lead single, “Shame Shame.” This was a bold choice to kick off the album rollout considering their powerful rock-band sound is replaced by a sneaky instrumental with a creeping bassline and tiptoeing strings. Instead of using his signature gritty tone, Dave Grohl takes on a vocal approach similar to his frequent collaborator Josh Homme, with some sly falsettos as the rest of the band slinks around him. Even with such a different approach, when that chorus slides in, it is undeniably Foo Fighters. While it was quite a sudden shift in sound, “Shame Shame” was a fantastic way to ease fans into what awaited them on the rest of the project.
Sonically, many tracks call back to their 2011 record, “Wasting Light.” While their latest effort doesn’t include anything with the ferocity of “Bridge Burning” or “White Limo,” the band does further develop the more rhythm-section-focused moments of that album such as “Dear Rosemary” or “Arlandria.” The infectious “Holding Poison” is a prime example of this with its powerful chorus surrounded by groovy woodblock-aided verses. This one is sure to be a hit at live shows whenever they are able to perform for crowds again.
While there is a focus on a dance-rock sound, the band still packs a punch. The opening track “Making a Fire” has a massive chorus that’s sure to win over any listener skeptical of their new sound. Foo Fighters is a band known for their explosive openers and this track is no exception. “No Son Of Mine” is the heaviest track on the album thanks to its crunchy guitar riff. While Grohl doesn’t really break out any screamed vocals on the album, this track gives the listener plenty of his gritty upper register.
Grohl and company decide to once again call on Greg Kurstin to handle the production. He handled their previous album, 2017’s “Concrete and Gold,” and unfortunately, the production was the biggest shortcoming. There were fantastic tracks on that album, “Run” in particular being one of their strongest tracks to date, but they were hindered by a subpar mix that made the instruments blend together into a muddy wall of sound. It felt like watching a spectacular fireworks show through a filthy windshield. Thankfully, this is not the case for “Medicine at Midnight.” Every instrument can be heard clearly and it makes it very easy to get lost in the tunes. Kurstin may not have been a good fit for the hard-rock energy of “Concrete and Gold,” but he knocked it out of the park with “Medicine at Midnight.”
While their tracks focusing on their new, more pop-oriented sound are a lot of fun, the tracks that fall back into their signature sound are rather stale. The third single “Waiting On A War” is an uninteresting track that sounds very phoned-in. Grohl sings, “Is there more to this than that?” over and over, and the listener can’t help but think the same thing about the track, as it has very little to offer. The band tries to do a slow build similarly to the fiery “Let It Die” or menacing “Something From Nothing,” but once the song reaches its climax, it’s not much more interesting despite the faster tempo and louder guitars. The closing track “Love Dies Young” has some similar issues. It just sounds like the band on autopilot, making it a very unsatisfying ending to the album.
Despite some shortcomings, “Medicine at Midnight” is a solid addition to their discography. They took a risk by chasing a poppier sound, and it paid off in the end. This is an album that will be a ton of fun to sing along to when the band is allowed to pack stadiums once again.