Foo Fighters – Medicine At Midnight
With each passing year I feel as though I have a greater appreciation for Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters’ eighth studio album, released back in 2014. Accompanied by a miniseries of the same name, it saw Grohl and the gang visiting eight iconic US cities, interviewing some of the music legends that put their respective scenes on the map, before bringing their words to life in songs that sought to capture the spirit of the respective cities and their music heritage. I remember at the time being disappointed that the project didn’t go far enough; that we didn’t hear the band’s take on country for Nashville, or their own spin on the blues for Chicago for instance. Instead they still just sounded like the Foo Fighters. But since then, I’ve grown to appreciate it for what it is, rather than what I wanted it to be. Part of that may be down to hindsight, or me being older and wiser, or simply that it’s had time to grow on me. But I think a large part of my new-found appreciation for Sonic Highways comes from how favourably it compares with the albums that followed. It’s hard not to see the band’s drive and ambition on that record in a new light when every release that followed has been a dull and uninspired paint-by-numbers affair.
Medicine At Midnight, much like Concrete And Gold before it, sees the band operating on autopilot. A record born of sheer boredom, just the feeling that they should put another record out, not because they had anything of note to say. There’s no fire or passion in any of the performances, and the songwriting fails to grab your attention and falls well short of their past work. It all just seems so half-hearted. It feels like it was concocted in a board room after they asked for a rock soundtrack for a movie, but couldn’t afford the music rights, and so just commissioned the most basic and lifeless rock music at the last minute. Tracks like ‘Cloudspotter’ and ‘Waiting On A War’ may as well just be called “Generic Rock Song #3” and “Bog Standard Acoustic Ballad”. The former in particular is a real low point for the album. The riffs and melodies have hints of the cheesiest excess of bands like Poison and Motley Crue, and the lyrics in the chorus are just a completely random jumble of buzz words, a far cry from the likes of ‘Everlong’ or ‘The Pretender’.
‘Cloudspotter’ is probably the one exception to the rule however. Nowhere else does the album veer into “genuinely bad” territory, instead it stays firmly put in the realm of “overwhelmingly average”. It’s not bad, it’s a perfectly adequate album, but I’d struggle to get excited about it. The last record at least had a couple of highlights like ‘Run’ and The Sky Is A Neighborhood’, but there’s nothing here that feels worthy of a slot in their set list. The title track has a decent groove and some bluesy guitar, ‘No Son Of Mine’ feels like a tamed down track from latter-day Metallica, and ‘Chasing Birds’ has a brief dalliance with dreamy psychedelic pop as the band dip their toes into new sounds but don’t quite dive all the way in.
At this point in their career it seems as though the band are coasting by purely on name recognition and Dave Grohl’s seemingly bottomless font of charisma and likeability. I certainly can’t begrudge them that, surely that’s living the dream right? But at the same time if they’re gonna sound as if they were bored while making the album, then I’m likely going to be fairly bored while listening to it.