Is Medicine at Midnight the end of classic Foo Fighters?
The release of the Foo Fighters 10th studio album Medicine at Midnight leads one to wonder if 90s classic rock has reached its end. The classic rock sound of splintering rhymes with overdone post-grunge gloom transition to a modern dance-rock sound with strong influences of Bowie on this new album. Ditching the classic Foo Fighters sound of bitter grief, songs like ‘Making a Fire’ and ‘Love Dies Young’ incorporate a new feeling of hope.
When discussing the album with George Godfrey of Radio X, lead singer of the band, Dave Grohl, described himself as a “creatively reckless person.” Going into detail, Grohl talked of the struggles he had when trying to make the album whilst socially distanced, and what sound it would have. After creating ‘Making a Fire’ the band realized they wanted to take the album in an ever-expanding dance-rock direction. When asked to describe the intention of Medicine at Midnight Grohl excitedly explained that ‘The way we bring joy is by giving music to people and letting them bounce around their kitchen on a Saturday night with a bottle of wine.’
The first song on the album, ‘Making a Fire’, is a prime example of this. The classic na na na illustrates a clear image of what is to come, with the slight addition of three female backing vocalists, including Grohl’s daughter, Violet. Similarly, the title track, ‘Medicine at Midnight’ lifts you with feelings of optimism and soaring guitar solos.
The second track of the album, ‘Shame Shame’, debuted on SNL in early November. The song left fans to believe what followed would have a somber, earthy, and offbeat feel, however, what fans received was a hopeful, psychedelic, dream of a dance-rock monument. When Grohl spoke of his inspiration for the album on the track commentary (available on Youtube and Spotify) his words were ‘I was always using David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album (1983) as reference.’
The idea for the music video of ‘Shame Shame’ arose from a dream Grohl had when he was 14 or 15. In the dream, Grohl stood at the foot of a hill, where he saw a coffin below a dead tree. As he ran to rescue whoever was inside the coffin, he burnt his hands in the relentless effort to pry it open. In an interview with NME Grohl explained “They fit perfectly together, the visuals – which are some dark corner of my psyche – and the song.” The directorial masterpiece of Paola Kudacki, fashion photographer, stars Grohl and Sofia Boutella, (best known for her roles as Delphine in Atomic Blonde, and Ahmanet of The Mummy) whom Grohl described in an interview with NME in November as “just a force of nature.”
‘Cloudspotter’ and ‘No Son of Mine’ bring back the classic Foo Fighters sound, but are the only sign of it on the album, and underwhelming at that. They both have similar sounds, however for both of which you find yourself asking if this was another selection of the same million classic rock Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam songs you’ve heard a thousand times before. Despite the too-familiar sound, ‘No Son of Mine’ is brimmed with an overflow of love from Grohl to his son. Lyrics like ‘No son of mine will ever need… No son of mine will ever be… No son of mine will ever say’ portray a profound amount of pure hope Grohl has for his son and his future.
Succeeding the same old sound of ‘Cloudspotter’ and ‘No Son of Mine’, contrasted with beautiful lyricism, ‘Waiting on a War’ describes the fear clouding the mind of the youth, living in a corrupted world of such intense political strife. The song opens with ‘I’ve been waiting on a war since I was young since I was just a little boy with a toy gun’. Though heartbreaking, these lyrics appeal to the current day youth, a lyrical possession of their cries brought to life in the music video. The video tops that of ‘Shame Shame’, mastering the contents of the youth’s thoughts surrounding current-day topics, as politicians sit with bags over their heads, discarded bodies lay scattered throughout a damaged and ever-changing world of destruction and crisis and teenage girl clings to a stuffed animal as the youth clings to their childhood.
‘Holding Poison’ is catchy in the way that it could stay in your head for days and you wouldn’t be mad about it. Guitarist, Pat Smear, describes the song as having a ‘witchy sound’, and it truly is the only way to describe it. Rich with thumping drums from Taylor Hawkins complimented by the eerily rough and deep voice of Grohl.
‘Chasing Birds’ is a song of acoustic, almost John Lennon-like, sounds, overfilling with desire for a delicate although the failed feeling of delicacy, the song simply just not sounding well with Grohl’s harsh voice. In recent Foo Fighters albums, specifically In Your Honor, a more acoustic album, the songs were beautiful, crafted to fit Grohl’s voice flawlessly, however that same effect doesn’t apply here. It’s safe to say that with the failure of the only softly-acoustic song on the album, as well as the two post-grunge songs ‘Cloudspotter’ and ‘No Son of Mine’, the Foo Fighters have ultimately reached an end to their classic rock, acoustic and soft, but harsh 90s sound. They now make the cross to dance-rock that perfectly illustrates the future of the Foo Fighters.
Finishing the LP with ‘Love Dies Young’, beautifully illustrating the impending doom of young love, furthering the common theme of youth on the album. During the track commentary, Grohl talks about how the song might be his favorite on the album, not because of where it ended up, but from where it came. The journey of the song displays the deeply rooted artistic mindset of every member of the band. As Grohl detailed, the song originated with the ‘Everlong’ (1997) beat. Through the process, the song turned from slow, creamy strumming to a sharply rigid and fast-paced song of doomed love.
The majority of the tracks bring to life an abandoned sound during a pandemic, vibrant with hope for the future of the world (and the band), crammed with new sounds, evolving and advancing from the post-grunge sound to a modern-day David Bowie band.