Foo Fighters
Medicine at Midnight


3.2
good

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
February 5th, 2021 | 83 replies


Release Date: 02/05/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Foos are back! (kinda)

Way back in 2011, just before the turning of Wasting Light, I thought Foo Fighters were well and truly spent. At that point Foo Fighters was their only really great album, with Foos' follow-up, The Colour and the Shape, riding on the coattails of the eponymous debut as a decent alternative. Yet, even with my praises for both of those records, they aren’t entirely cohesive in the “album experience” sense. One of the biggest problems I have with Foo Fighters is their albums always feel like patchwork quilt jobs – one self-contained track being stitched together with another, just to make the ends meet. Though the debut and sophomore LP are largely exempt from such criticisms, the problem does rear its head as far back as then. As such, with a track record of myopic album making, for the longest time I had the group penned as being a singles band – the type of band that can craft a scathing radio banger, but always fails to weave an engaging, well-thought-out album when it comes to piecing whole projects together. And, man, don’t get me wrong, the band’s late-nineties-noughties-era singles are career-defining, but on the albums themselves, in between those classic tracks lies a string of songs ranging from forgettable and average to decent. I may go up in flames with the sentiment, but I think it’s a fair observation Foo Fighters are better known for writing really great singles over albums.

Of course, this opinion was swiftly obliterated in 2011 when Wasting Light came into the equation. It’s the year where, seventeen years into Foo Fighters’ life, the band decided to craft the most punctilious album of their career. It’s a record brimming with glorious top-tier rock tunes from cover-to-cover; a rock album so impeccably designed that, to this day, it still leaves me dumbfounded by the quality and succinct execution of it all, simply because it goes against everything I am used to seeing and hearing from the band. It’s nearly fifty minutes long but it feels like a breezy thirty-minute summer album, packed with every one of the band’s positive traits: it’s heavy, groovy, sharp-witted, and deliciously catchy. So, yeah, after the quality display Wasting Light presented, I was all in again and kept my ear to the ground with this revitalised version of the band, eagerly awaiting the incredibly unique project that was Sonic Highways in 2014: a record that, on paper, sounded amazing in concept but was horrendously miscalculated and superficial in execution. The record would be accompanied by an HBO documentary (the better-executed half of the project) that went into America’s musical history; Foos would explore eight cities, tap into their musical heritage and record a song in a famous recording studio from that city, in reverence to its contributions. The problem with this idiosyncratic concept was the album didn’t reflect the styles and scenes being investigated, amounting to nothing more than average Foo-tunes guested by some pertinent musical figure from the style/scene it was based on.

In truth, the band have never recovered from that bitterly disappointing project. What’s worse, where you could have once accredited Foo Fighters for writing intensely enjoyable singles over complete albums, post-Sonic Highways proved even that attribute had faded into obscurity; the average side of the band now completely engulfing their works. All of the band’s EPs and the exceptionally bland Concrete and Gold now exhibited a band completely devoid of creativity. As harsh as it sounds, there isn’t a single memorable moment to be had from those projects, and it is music ultimately reserved for supermarket ambience and bargain bins.

Indeed, I wonder why I’m continuing to follow a band that seems to have peaked ten years ago, but in regards to Foo Fighters in 2021, the very reason I’m sat here reviewing Medicine at Midnight is because its singles formed an impenetrable, enigmatic mist over what the album’s true quality would be: perched on a razor’s edge, just aching to cleave itself in half. On the one hand, I found “Shame Shame”’s benign demeanour to be extremely cathartic and somewhat refreshing – in spite of the terribly distracting song title and Grohl’s crooning “shame, shame”, which had me reminiscing over Cersei Lannister walking down King’s Landing, starkers, getting piss and *** thrown her way. There’s just something about the song’s pedestrian verse, filled with tapering groove-dominated funk, burrowing through a narrow hole which eventually breaks out into a soaring chorus of swelling, synthetic grandiosity. The two segments just flow so well together and it’s a synthetic, folk-y rock mesh I can get onboard with. However, on the other side of the coin, “No Son of Mine” brought the seeds of doubt into what we were going to be getting here. It’s an offering best described as an outright bad dad-rock song. This uncertainty was then doubled down on with “Waiting on a War”, a track that walks perfectly in between the contrasting quality being reflected by its previous two singles. It has an equal measure of good and bland elements, but its attempt at capturing the epic build-up of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” brought commendable engagement to the table, as it half succeeds in its endeavour.

So, I guess the only question that remains is, which side does Medicine at Midnight want to reside in? Does the album get over the stagnant hump Foo Fighters have been trying to clamber over for the past decade – with “Shame Shame”’s amalgamation of synth-heavy pop and rock, peppered with folk-y undertones – or does it want to continue festering in the immediately forgettable rock tunes arena with tracks like “No Son of Mine”? In a strange turn of events, Medicine at Midnight doesn’t so much climb over the hump they’ve been trying to get over, no, the album kind of gets halfway up it and latches onto it so it doesn’t slide back down to the bottom again. There are some great ideas at the heart of this thing, and I would say it’s the best album Foo’s have done since Wasting Light, though that doesn’t say much. There’s plenty of big riffs to sink your teeth into, and the LP has a fervent focus on foot-tapping disco grooves that the bass player in me just can’t deny – “Making a Fire”, “Shame Shame” and “Medicine at Midnight” being obvious proponents of this aspect. The title track in particular is a very worthy recommendation because it has an undeniable rhythm, and a seedy nightclub aesthetic. In addition to the great instrumentals behind the piece, Grohl’s vocal approach is excitingly different and adds to the enjoyment of the track.

For the most part Medicine at Midnight is an enjoyable LP. “Holding Poison” has a Josh Homme, Them Crooked Vultures vibe to its squawking guitar riff, and, generally, every track here brings big riffs and even bigger grooves. The concise length of the album also works massively in its favour as well. It’s as if Foo Fighters wanted to pack as much into the album as possible and tell it in the briefest way possible. “Chasing Birds” and “Love Dies Young” are very forgettable, sure, “Cloudspotter” (with the exception of the guitar effect in the verse, which reminds me of Torche’s “Admission”) and “Waiting on a War” are a little flat and uninspired, but overall, this is a decent return for the band and it should quench any Foo Fighters fan's thirst.

FORMAT//EDITIONS:
CD//DIGITAL//VINYL//BUNDLES

ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE:
https://www.foofighters.com/



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user ratings (185)
2.7
average
other reviews of this album
Barry000 (4)
Something of a return to form for the Foo Fighters...



Comments:Add a Comment 
IleftyspankedU
February 5th 2021


765 Comments


That was one well written review sir. I will give the album a spin tomorrow

Crxmateo
February 5th 2021


52 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This record was extremely disorienting and disorganized. Super unfortunate but every song transition was jarring and very inconsistent.



Shame shame.

Digging: Holding Absence - The Greatest Mistake Of My Life

Divaman
February 5th 2021


9601 Comments


Yeah, think I'm gonna pass this time.

Digging: Grouplove - This Is This

TheLeopardsFret
February 5th 2021


53 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I'm actually really liking the album tracks, but it's so weird the way that they shoved the singles into the album as every second song when they sound absolutely nothing like the other tracks. It goes back and forth between smooth pop-rock with disco grooves and overwrought balladry which is really jarring



Also I officially don't get the Wasting Light love, like sure it's probably more consistent than most of their other albums but the songs are nothing special for them and the style is almost identical to most of Sonic Highways. I really don't get why more people don't agree with me that Sonic Highways is far better



Like you're telling me that Bridges Burning and Arlandria are awesome and Feast and the Famine and Congregation were uninspired? Like I don't get it

StickFeit
February 5th 2021


1405 Comments


Nobody expected them to have a Wasting Light record in them I guess.. I personally think Sonic Highways is just try harding all over the place. The concept was a fun gimmick but the execution was just bland.

But to be honest I haven't listened to SH since the first month it got released, so I might give it another go.

Nocte
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


13967 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I personally think Sonic Highways is just try harding all over the place. The concept was a fun gimmick but the execution was just bland.




At least it had some direction or a larger goal in mind, unlike this jarringly average snooze-fest.

Pikazilla
February 5th 2021


15516 Comments


Band hasn't done anything remotely interesting since WL, agreed

BigPleb
February 5th 2021


62626 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Don't think I will bother with this, all of the singles were bland.



WL was their last great album, think their best years are behind them now unfortunately.

keaton_86
February 5th 2021


182 Comments


Everyone knows the foo fighters have 2 good songs per album. It has always been and has always will be.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


5406 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Massive review! It's a decent record, but I can't help thinking about having 3 guitar players and not layering more or trying different things. Grohl keeps sticking to the radio friendly format and it's like they don't have enough patience anymore to hone their ideas.



Concrete and Gold grew on me, although looking back it's not a career highlight.

Digging: Motorpsycho - Kingdom of Oblivion

BigPleb
February 5th 2021


62626 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Grohl is too busy being awesome in interviews atm.



Love the man but his songwriting has certainly dropped off in quality over the past decade.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


5406 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, he's cool, but he entered the dad rock sphere. I hope he snaps out of it and delivers a rock album.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


44975 Comments

Album Rating: 2.3

"At that point Foo Fighters was their only really great album, with Foo’s follow up, The Colour and the Shape, riding on the coattails of the eponymous debut as a decent alternative"



...bruh



also second bruh for your assessment of the singles, No Son of Mine is the only great one imo (in fact it's the only great song on this album for me)



excellent review as always, I think this is bottom 3 material for them. just shockingly repetitive and dull and uninteresting, and I say this as a Concrete & Gold defender lol. this ain't it Dave

Digging: Brockhampton - Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine

BigPleb
February 5th 2021


62626 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Where's the riffs man?



I'm just waiting on a new TCV album, we all want that.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


16855 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

thanks row, always appreciated.



I actually think the best tracks are the ones that aren't singles lol, besides "shame shame", of course.



also, wasting light is their best album, and i'll go to the grave with that opinion lol

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


44975 Comments

Album Rating: 2.3

Wasting Light is pretty good front-to-back and it slaps in the car, but it still feels too produced/manufactured to be my favourite



they never recaptured the mix of noisey punky shit with the big radio singles like they did on TCATS, basically, though I will admit Exhausted is their best song

claygurnz
February 5th 2021


6477 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Not expecting much from this but i'll give it a go I guess.

Toondude10
February 5th 2021


14461 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

as someone who genuinely enjoyed the last two records, this is just.....eh



at least it's mercifully short

William21
February 5th 2021


609 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This is pretty easily their worst album ever

Project
February 5th 2021


4744 Comments


well, you said "best since Wasting Light" so I have to listen, but my expectations are low

good rev

Digging: half/cut - Salt an Atlas



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