The Foo Fighters have long been coined as the last great rock band, and although it is a label they would be the first to attempt to dispel, it is true their presence, story and history have a certain allure, given their origins of being borne from one of the most culturally significant bands ever – Nirvana. As such, they are a unique representation of the musical and cultural past. It is also true there is no other straightforward rock band that have reached the meteoric heights that the Foo Fighters have. However, whether this title is truly reflective of the entire modern music scene is a debate for another day.
For now, a much more pressing topic must be discussed; that of the ‘nicest man in rock’ Dave Grohl and fellow band’s tenth studio album Medicine at Midnight. The album comprises only nine songs but boy, do they manage to pack a lot into those nine songs. Making A Fire starts the record off with big energy and demonstrates the band’s skill as alchemists of great quintessential rock songs. The track begins with a great drum beat and, as can be expected from a band fit to burst with drumming talent (Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins being two of the best around), the way the drums have been played, recorded, and produced make them sound great; an observation that is fitting for the whole album. Next enters an overdriven guitar riff that slides up and down the neck before the “na na”s start. Although the verse features an almost lazy guitar overdub, the song symbolises the catharsis and mobilisation of a jaded character, not only in the energy of the song, but also in the fantastic motivating lyric ‘waited a lifetime to live, it’s time to ignite.’
This idea of a weary character is also explored in the two ballady numbers on the album; Waiting on a War (‘there’s got be more to this than that’) and Chasing Birds (‘I’m chasing birds to get high’). The former prompts the listener to root for the character after garnering their sympathy with the lines “I never wanted to be number one, I just wanted to love everyone”, and “just a boy with nowhere left to go”, as well as “every day waiting for the sky to fall”. The latter rather upsettingly embodies a character who has run out of energy and who thus expresses the desire of ‘never coming down’ from their high.
As for the other songs, they mostly follow a similar classic structure, opening with a heavy guitar riff and/or drums that lead into verses dripping with distorted guitar before exploding into a chorus, with the sound being kept big throughout the bridge. The songs are eventually brought crashing back down to something that resembles the intro before sometimes erupting back up to end the song on a high.
All except for the title track. Medicine at Midnight does not begin sounding like a Foo Fighters song. It is introduced by a beat consisting of clicking, clapping, and cowbell sounds, and the song is designed to focus on groove and funky riffs. Regular Foo Fighters service is resumed during the smooth-sounding choruses, but the highlight of the track for me is the super bluesy guitar solo following the second chorus that sounds just like Stevie Ray Vaughn’s playing on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance.
The Foo Fighters can always be relied upon to deliver raw, raucous rock. And although it can be argued Medicine at Midnight is lacking in any standout tracks that are destined to bury themselves into the hearts of music fans for years to come, as so many of the band’s songs have done, the album is a great, huge-sounding rock record. So if you find yourself in need of a short, sharp boost of high-energy rock, Medicine at Midnight by the Foo Fighters is a perfect choice.