Over the course of their expansive 26-year career, Foo Fighters have proven time and time again that they are among rock music’s most consistently dependable acts. Everything Dave Grohl and company have put out exudes ambition, and yet, the band’s tenth studio album Medicine at Midnight may be their most ambitious effort to date.
Right away from the opening drum groove on leadoff cut “Making a Fire,” it’s evident that this record won’t be anything like the nine LP’s to precede it. The ¾ rocker boasts jaw-dropping vocal harmonies and hand-claps, both of which are early proof this isn’t your typical Foos album. The six-piece have gone as far as calling Medicine at Midnight a “dance album,” which may seem like a bit of a stretch at first, but with each successive track, that descriptor feels more and more accurate. Like the opener, groove is the name of the game for much of this effort, from the double-time / half-time feel of lead single “Shame Shame,” to the more straight-ahead rock feel of tunes like “Cloudspotter” and “No Son of Mine,” to everywhere in between.
In addition to the recurring feeling of groove, the band employs new, unfamiliar elements throughout Medicine at Midnight. Take the shuffle of “Shame Shame,” or the driving title track, for instance, a synth-heavy rocker with nods to both the dance rock of David Bowie and the new wave of Talking Heads. Even the more traditional-sounding Foo Fighters tunes, such as the pulsing “Holding Poison” or the upbeat closer “Love Dies Young,” have unique moments that are no doubt uncharted territory for the long-time rockers, from the backing beat on both tracks to the train- or call-like guitar effect on the closer.
As danceable as Medicine at Midnight is, its most memorable moments come on tunes you likely wouldn’t dance to: namely, the third single “Waiting on a War” and the penultimate track “Chasing Birds.” The latter is a slow, somber tune with lush vocal harmonies, making “Chasing Birds” stand out as the clear highlight from side B. Meanwhile, “Waiting on a War” examines the uncertainties of the future, starting off slow and simplistic before a steady build-up eventually culminates in an explosion of fast-paced rock and roll fury by the song’s end. Throw in just the right amount of orchestration throughout, and it’s no wonder “Waiting on a War” is one of the best songs released so far in 2021.
Each and every Foo Fighters album has its own level of merit, and Medicine at Midnight is no exception. What sets it apart from the other nine full-lengths released throughout the band’s illustrious career is that it feels wholly unique from its counterparts. In other words, what makes Medicine at Midnight so different is just that: it’s different. Ambitious as ever, it is markedly unlike anything the rock act has ever done before, while still somehow possessing that undeniable Foos sound. It feels like the perfect paradox. Then again, for a band that has made as much out of the past quarter of a century as the Foo Fighters have, nothing is truly out of the question.