We listened to the eagerly awaited “Medicine at Midnight”, the tenth album from Dave Grohl and co., savoured it and created a special tattoo gallery for the occasion…
It had been in the air for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the group which was just a year ago. The melancholy choice to put this record in quarantine (“Medicine at Midnight” was already finished in 2020, but in the end, the Seattle band decided to put off release when their world tour got cancelled last year). The fact that “Concrete and Gold” which came out without much fanfare in 2017 failed to meet the enthusiastic reception of its predecessors “Wasting Light” (great album) and “Sonic Highways” (brilliant songwriting). There was lost ground to win back.
And then the enigmatic statement from leader Dave Grohl that this album was going to be the definitive “Let’s Dance” of his band. With a throwaway reference to the work which in 1983 marked the return of the legend of one David Bowie.
And so, unlike so many recordings which come out these days without getting any mention in the media, “Medicine at Midnight” certainly caused a bit of a stir. I won’t go so far as to say that it is is about to set 2021 on fire, but it is only fair to say that it might merit a closer and more frequent listen that that recently accorded to “Power Up” from AC/DC. Out of respect to the band, but also in the quest for intriguing new sounds.
Speaking of which, is there anything really new in here? The answer is a resounding affirmative, but not always in the sense of softening/overturning their sound (something the Foos have done over and over throughout their career: from a minor hit like “Big Me” to the fabulous “Learning To Fly” and the whole country part of “In Your Honour”) it’s pretty much par for course. Meaning that the opening track “Making a fire” almost sounds like a gospel postcard which could have come from dated musicals like “Hair” or “Jesus Christ Superstar”. And the sterling backing singers from the ex-drummer of Nirvana do nothing to help the situation.
Just like the closing track “Love dies young” is such an airy joyful number it could have been written by Lenny Kravitz for someone else to sing. Much better from this point of view the soft rock of “Chasing birds” which Grohl performs with feeling worthy of a ballad by the Carpenters. Or Lambchop, to cite a more recent outfit and not to mention the omnipresent Beatles). And what about the aforementioned Bowie? His spirit is conjured on the title track “Medicine at Midnight” which with its excellent blend of funk/soul and catchy chorus is without a doubt the best track on the entire album.
At this stage all that’s missing is rock for it to be a Foo Fighters record. No sooner said than it appears in the alternative 90s sound of “Holding poison”, but also in the washed out Motorhead of “No son of mine” (which, alas, is not the epic Genesis hit…) or Kiss who crop up in the choir in “Cloudspotter”, overwhelming and concealed behind one electronic effect and the next. So what’s missing from the tracklist? The paranoid litany of “Shame shame” sublimated in a melancholy chorus (and here’s Bowie back again!) and the acoustic ballad “Waiting on a war” (you can see the video here below) which is the best the Foos have managed to come up with since the glory days of “Times like these” or “The best of me”.
A hallmark sound, the warmth of “Waiting on a war” likely to trigger a stadium chorus in the head of the listener. A return to base which firebrands a record far from mediocre but weighed down by too much compromise and flab. Luckily “Medicine at Midnight” lasts as long as certain classics of the 70s and 80s (just 36 and a half minutes), a reminder that in this period of billions of streamings this is also the era of the revival of vinyl. But now it’s time to get back to making memorable records. Right, Dave Grohl?
– Making a fire
– Shame shame
– Waiting on a war
– Medicine at midnight
– No son of mine
– Holding poison
– Chasing birds
– Love dies young