When the Foo Fighters debuted their first new music in over three years back in November 2020, I became a bit wary. They performed “Shame Shame” on “Saturday Night Live” for their first musical performance of the night, and there were parts I liked and parts I didn’t. The heavy drum beat was exciting and I liked the experimentation with singer Dave Grohls’ voice as he usually doesn’t go for high notes. However, something was a bit off about the song that didn’t really capture me as a listener.
Now with the release of “Medicine at Midnight,” I know exactly what the problem was, as it is an issue that persists almost entirely throughout the 36 minute album.
For context, “Medicine at Midnight” is the Foo’s second project working with producer Greg Kurstin, who is more known for his work with major pop artists like Adele and Sia. The first project and the Foo’s previous album “Concrete and Gold,” my review of which can be found here, was a homerun. It still sounded like Foo Fighters, but it explored a heavier emphasis on the melodies and let the instrumentation hold just as much power as Grohl.
This second project strays further from what you’d expect from the Foo Fighters, abandoning the post-grunge sound they’ve kept for 25 years and chasing a more high-energy alternative aesthetic. I have no issue when a band shifts genres. If anything, I encourage it; update and adapt with the times. However, it seems to be the Foo’s that are actually struggling with that concept.
As I mentioned before, Grohl and the gang were clearly trying to mix things up with “Medicine at Midnight” and experiment. The problem comes with the band not going all in with these experimentations, and instead just sprinkling in a mild amount of shifts and changes here and there and hoping that’s enough to carry the songs. This lack of commitment is why I had such a bad first impression with “Shame Shame.” It relied on Taylor Hawkins’ drum performance and the sensationalism of Grohl using a higher pitch and everything else sort of slacked.
Of course, this issue being prevalent throughout the album has consequently left many of the tracks to blend together, leading to a mostly forgetful LP.
It cannot go without mentioning that there are still a handful of songs that do standout from the rest, either through their lyrical content or powerful energy. Songs like “Cloudspotter” and “Love Dies Young” bring fist-pumping action to an overall dull half hour. Meanwhile, “Waiting on a War” and “No Son of Mine” explore the paranoia of the Cold War and criticisms of the Catholic Church respectively, and the content of these songs certainly are unique to the rest.
Together, the composition of “Medicine at Midnight” just wasn’t as exciting as the Foo’s had hoped. Even still, some songs manage to carry their own weight, and others make poignant statements. Mostly though, “Medicine at Midnight” lacks the content necessary to bring me back for another listen, which is why I am at the very least thankful the Foo Fighters have nine other albums to listen to. I shall remain hopeful for the next Foo’s project, as I am confident the rock legends will be at it again very soon.