Foo Fighters: Medicine at Midnight – One of the naffest rock album in years
Medicine at Midnight
Since starting life as a solo project while grieving for Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl’s stadium-filling monsters have become one of the precious few marquee names left in the dwindling premier league of rock. Foo Fighters are big enough to headline Slane, scoop a dozen Grammys and play alongside Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga at Joe Biden’s inauguration. They are also one of the most formulaic, repetitive and musically conservative bands on the planet.
Medicine at Midnight, more than any other Foo Fighters album to date, deliberately strays into fluffy, catch-all pop-rock. The opening track, Making a Fire, makes this crystal clear from the start with gratuitous na-na-nas and a breakdown that borders on the ridiculous. Despite the drum loops and pop hooks, there are probably just enough guitars left in the monitors to carry Foos’ hardcore audience, the kind of people who demand “proper tunes” and have little tolerance for anything that dares to have sonically evolved past their mid-1990s comfort zone.
On the lead single, Waiting on a War, Grohl links his youthful fear of an attack on Washington DC (he grow up within a stone’s throw of the Capitol) with his daughter’s current anxiety about world events. All very well. However, it also shoehorns every orchestral rock cliche in the kitchen sink into a pop song. Melodramatic strings swoop around pointlessly and Grohl yodels “just waiting on a waa-oooh-rrrr” in his trademark vocal. It’s a fitting calling card, as Medicine at Midnight is quite possibly the naffest rock album to surface in years.
After consolidating their blue-chip status during their first decade, Foos now approach their business from numerous different angles in what they call in the music biz a “360-degree act”. Sonic Highways in 2014 came with an accompanying TV series on HBO and surprise concerts. Last February they announced the Van Tour 2020. Obviously, we know what happened next, but at least they’ve been able to roll out a trainer collaboration with Vans in another slick exercise in mainstream proficiency.
Yes, Grohl is (un)officially the nicest man in rock, a fact we’ve been repeatedly reminded of during one of the most ubiquitous publicity campaigns of recent times. And at least Medicine at Midnight wasn’t automatically uploaded to your phone. While Grohl is undeniably a great interviewee and a thoroughly decent chap, there’s no unwritten rule decreeing you must be nice to make good music. (Sadly, the polar opposite often applies.)
Their surefire-hit approach is on the brink of extinction, so an ailing music industry worships them like a modern Beatles. Foo Fighters make music that’s so average, it’s almost an accomplishment initself.