Foo Fighters have never claimed to be reinventing the wheel. Nirvana, Dave Grohl’s former band, already did that in the Nineties – so he’s spent the past 25 years hammering out what he readily admits is dad rock. “I think the reason why we’re still here is because we do disconnect ourselves from the popular stuff that’s going on,” he says, and it’s hard to resent him for that. Medicine at Midnight, the six-piece’s 10th record, is a perfectly perfunctory addition to a canon of robust rock’n’roll.
Grohl describes Medicine at Midnight as a “party record”, which does make me wonder what sort of parties he throws. But while hardly full of bops, it would slot nicely into a stadium setlist. The crunchy riffs of opener “Making a Fire” morph into syncopated beats, claps, and chants of “nah nah nah” that is forgivably cheesy. On “Cloudspotter”, which has a funky edge and hair-rock chorus, the meaningless refrain “sweet, sweet guillotine queen” feels factory-designed for a mass shout-along, while the acoustic ballad “Waiting on a War” practically begs you to put a lighter in the air. That track has strings, a rousing melody, and a vaguely defiant message – it was inspired by the moment Grohl’s 11-year-old daughter turned to him and asked if there was going to be a war.
“Shame Shame” gets off to a promising start – a minimalist, staccato intro and a chorus that sounds a little like Sleater-Kinney – but by the time the 38th “shame” comes around, the whole thing is dragging itself along like a sulky toddler. You can tell by the “Ace of Spades” riff that “No Son of Mine” was written in tribute to Motörhead’s Lemmy. And yet the trouble with drawing such blatant comparison is that the Foo Fighters are not Motörhead, while Grohl certainly doesn’t have Lemmy’s growl or grit. Other tracks try for something a little daring, like the title track with its husky, sinister funk. Soon, though, it’s turned into Tenacious D, and by the end, muscle memory has kicked in and it’s classic rock again.
If Dave Grohl went around proclaiming godlike genius, Foo Fighters’ lack of sonic development might be irksome. But there is something admirable about the fact they stay so firmly planted in their lane. Medicine at Midnight is unlikely to win over many new fans, but it will make the existing ones happy. During a pandemic, anything that can do that is to be celebrated.
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