Excited, I watched as Foo Fighters took the stage on Saturday Night Live. It seemed to come out of nowhere (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention leading up to it). Like many of you, my excitement changed to “what the hell is this?” as they started “Shame Shame.” Odd beat. Dark. Not sure what the guitars were doing. Dave Grohl whispering out the first verse. I sat waiting for them to start rocking out. Waiting. It never came. That was my first taste of Medicine at Midnight.
I’m not the only one. The next day, I looked around social media to see what fans were saying. Most of us had the same reaction. Is this a new direction for the new album? Is it going to be a bunch of songs like this? The only thing I had heard about the album before this was that it was going to be a party album to celebrate their 25th anniversary. This song was about as far from a party as I could think…especially a Foo Fighters party.
Eventually, I read that the rest of the album was not like that song at all and that it was a strange choice for a lead single. Then I heard “No Son of Mine” and I was back in. Heavy. Loud. Strong riff. That’s what I was waiting for. I’m not a big fan of the backing vocals in the riff, but more on that in a minute.
Fast forward to CD launch day. Like I’ve done with the last several Foo Fighters CDs, I ran right out and got it. Before I get into the songs, a few overall notes. Like Concrete and Gold, Grohl tapped Greg Kurstin to produce. Just like Concrete and Gold, I’m not a fan of his production style. It’s too polished and layered (and they even use drum loops). And, the background singers give a way too poppy vibe to the best riffs on the CD. “Making a Fire” is IMO the best song on the CD, but suffers greatly from the Brady Bunch “na-nas.” As mentioned above, they also almost ruin the heaviest song on the album “No Son of Mine.”
The other note is that the CD is short. At nine songs and 36 minutes, it’s the shortest (timewise) CD in their catalog. Blink and it’s over. The biggest surprise to me with this CD is that it was finished in February 2020 and it sat on the shelf until they released it. Why not go back and add a song or two during that time?
Now, the songs. They’re like a roller coaster. It starts out like the 25th anniversary party Grohl promised and has some fun highlights. But, there are a few spots where I thought about making an early exit.
- “Making a Fire” – Great song. Grohl mentions it has a Sly and the Family Stone vibe, but it’s basically the riff from Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away.” Still, it kicks the album off in a strong hard-rocking fashion.
- “Shame Shame” – this song feels incomplete. It’s kind of poppy, but dark. I’m not sure what Grohl was going for here, but it doesn’t work. It grew on me a little (at least the chorus), but a total downer. And as the 2nd song on the CD, it loses most of the momentum of the opening track.
- “Cloud Spotter” – This song has some of the funk that Grohl mentioned he wanted in the party album. Production is off a bit as it’s hard to hear the vocals in the verse, but it’s a really good song. It picks the party back up.
- “Waiting on a War” – Even Grohl said, “‘Waiting On A War’ is the most recognizable song off the album as Foo Fighters.” It’s a good song, but it’s a huge buzzkill for a party. It’s inspired by his daughter asking if the US was going to go to war. It brought back memories of his childhood.
- “Medicine at Midnight” – This is late ‘70s/early ‘80s disco-inspired Rolling Stones…But think more “Emotional Rescue” than “Miss You.” This one is definitely filler.
- “No Son of Mine” – Think Motorhead, but I can’t imagine for a second that Lemmy would allow the background singers on the song…let alone to almost ruin the riff. It’s a good, heavy song, but it doesn’t have the groove of something like “White Limo.”
- “Holding Poison” – This song sounds straight out of the ‘80s with too much keyboard. It’s catchy though and keeps the pace up. It should be a fun one to hear live.
- “Chasing Birds” – Similar to “Shame Shame,” this song feels out of place here. Very schmaltzy and over-produced. Again, brings the vibe way down on the album. Just skip this one.
- “Love Dies Young” – This one starts out sounding like Queen, but then sounds like mid-2000s Bon Jovi. It’s catchy but very repetitive. It needs another verse or bridge to break it up. This could have been a much better song with a little more time spent on it.
Well, that’s it. Foo Fighters is one of those bands that has a lot of fans that came in at different times. If you’re an old-school, early Foos fan, you may not like this one as much. If you’re a later fan…maybe Wasting Light and on, you might like it a bit more. Either way, let’s hope they’re back out on the road soon!