After 25 years—and 10 big ol’ rock albums—the only concerning factor regarding new Foo Fighters material should be this: How will it play live?
Can the skyscraping choruses be sung by 40,000 fans at Dodger Stadium — even those who haven’t picked up a new Foos record since 2005? Is there space for Dave Grohl, sweat-stained and wild-eyed, to roar a few hearty “fuck yeah, you crazy motherfuckers!” as he gallops across the massive stage? Or at the very least, can the songs be painlessly absorbed as legions of dudes named Mike and Steve impatiently wait for “Everlong”?
Grohl and Co. understand their role as one of the last grand bearers of the monster rock show: “We wrote a lot of these songs to be played in stadiums — these big grooves, big choruses, big guitars,” the frontman said last November, discussing the band’s new album Medicine at Midnight on Spotify’s Rock This podcast. “It was really sort of designed to be this big party album.”
Party on, Dave. Medicine is a barrel of tailgating, beer-guzzling monkey bros; the band’s loosest and most dance-able record in a decade or more. While nominally influenced by ‘80s-era Rolling Stones and David Bowie, much of the nine-track LP comprises vaguely familiar, no-fuss adds to the setlist and high-octane reintroductions to the live music experience. It’s an album to welcome the post-pandemic thrills the band hopes to deliver sooner than later (especially after their 2020 tour dates were axed by COVID).
The new album’s lead single “Shame Shame” is something of a sonic outlier, with its precisely arranged, sad-funk foundation and shuffling drum machine as Grohl opines over the encompassing nature of shame itself: “Under my thumb like a drug, I will smother you.” The song still touts a familiarly soaring refrain, lest the Foos wander too far afield.
The buoyant opener “Making a Fire” is more telling of the project’s boisterous nature, complete with happy handclaps and “na-na-na”’s. “I’ve waited a lifetime to live, it’s time to ignite,” Grohl wails. (Pause for pyro blasts).
Though the most Foo Fighter-y tune has to be “Waiting on a War,” which begins earnestly enough, with an acoustic chug and some thoughts of earthly dread and anticipation. But then the bridge begins to swell, churning faster and faster before the full-electric, “Free Bird”-adjacent outro crashes through. Is this basically the same blueprint that birthed “Times Like These” and “All My Life”? Yes. Will it still crush in concert? You bet your ass!
Elsewhere, the thumpy title track is an unapologetic disciple of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and “No Son of Mine” — the album’s lone hard-rock offering — is heavy on Motörhead homage.
As Foo Fighters enter their first year of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame eligibility on the backs of booming rock songs with pop sensibilities, Medicine at Midnight is a worthy tack-on — good fun — from a band you can trust and a shamelessly bombastic bridge to the next big gig. That’s all that matters now.
In a true-to-form May 2020 essay for The Atlantic, titled The Day The Live Concert Returns, Grohl wrote: “I’m hungry for a big old plate of sweaty, ear-shredding, live rock and roll.”
Yeah, Dave. We got it.