Wednesday 10 February 2021

Foo Fighters - Medicine at Midnight (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Alternative Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 5 Feb 2021
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I've never been a big fan of the Foo Fighters, though this may well have converted me. I am, however, a big fan of their main man Dave Grohl, not just from what he did with Nirvana but with a variety of solo projects, such as Probot, and guest appearances, which are all over YouTube. He seems like he's a genuinely nice guy and someone who refuses to be pigeonholed because he appreciates a wide range of music and wants to explore it himself.

This is certainly a lot more poppy than I expected from the Foo Fighters. Grohl has compared it to a David Bowie album, Let's Dance, which is fair but limiting. There's plenty of David Bowie here, on the single Shame Shame and later songs like Chasing Birds and the title track, but it's not just Let's Dance. Shame Shame, for instance, sounds like Bowie covering Michael Jackson, which is an unusual sound I like a lot more than anything Jackson actually did.

It's infuriatingly catchy from moment one, with Making a Fire. This is power pop, a punky riff leading into Motown backing vocals and a stomping rock beat. It's the sort of song you find yourself singing along with on a first listen. Waiting on a War sounds Britpop to me, but it ramps up into another alt rock song, again like I expect from the Foo Fighters but poppier. Crucially, poppier here doesn't mean softer. This album has a big sound to it that trawls in soul, funk and pop to flavour its rock base.

A lot of it sounds familiar but in new forms. For instance, Cloudspotter kicks off with a sort of Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar, but stripped down and popped up. It turns into a heavier pop rock take on David Essex's Rock On with moments of UFO's Rock Bottom thrown in for good measure. The title track adds some reggae, along with some Mick Jagger and commercial era Tom Petty. Holding Poison is old school pop punk, like the Knack, and there's some of that on Making a Fire too. Oddest, No Son of Mine is an unusual song that sometimes feels like some hidden Metallica song translated into alt punk.

Most notably of all, it's all relentlessly upbeat. This was supposed to be released in 2020 but got put back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like it's an antidote to COVID, because it's hard not to leave it happier and more energised than we came in. Everything's big and brash and memorable. I didn't get up and dance to it, the way I did to the new Korpiklaani album, but many listeners will. It's a very danceable release, far more than anything I've heard from the Foo Fighters before.

And this makes me want to go back and find out what I've missed. I've heard some of the major singles but they've never really prompted me to dig deeper. This does. After all, everyone who played on this has been the band for quite a while. Bassist Nate Mendel joined in 1995, drummer Taylor Hawkins in 1997 and guitarist Chris Shiflett in 1999. Pat Smear was there at the beginning but left for a while; he returned in 2010. Even new fish Rami Jaffee, on keyboards, toured with them for a dozen years before officially joining in 2017. This can't have come out of nowhere.

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