The Foos are back, and they are blander than ever.
Is there anyone more likeable in rock music than Dave Grohl? The goofy charm of 52 year old leading man has always made it easy to root for Foo Fighters, and by the same token it makes it harder to hate quite so much on the band's tenth album. In truth, hate is too strong a word to describe my feelings on Medicine at Midnight - what the aging rockers have achieved here is closer to total indifference.
There were red flags from the get go in the promotion of Medicine at Midnight, with an anonymous set of singles dropped over the past few months in support of Foos return. 'Waiting on a War' was the most suspect of the bunch and in hindsight the most telling - a particularly vanilla quasi-political take with the kind of meek sentiment we can all get behind, while also failing to make any sort of engaging statement whatsoever.
I really do hate to use the term ''Dad rock'' to describe the output of a songwriter who is credited on 'Scentless Apprentice', but the sort of generic radio fluff encountered as you dive into the albums meandering tracklist would be more in line with expectations of a band as hopelessly dull and outrageously successful as Kings of Leon. Perhaps this is territory that Grohl is ready to settle for in middle age - it's slightly sad but totally understandable. Foo Fighters sit atop of an increasingly dwindling group of elite bands that can still justifiably claim to be 'rockstars' - these kind of sellout stadium headliners (KoL, Green Day) are a dying breed, so why not crank out a few so-so guitar jams and enjoy your success?
It's somehow already been a decade since Foo Fighters wrote Wasting Light. Sure, that album may not have boasted the kind of super melodic 90s guitar classics that Grohl could effortlessly belt out in Foo's early years, but the band sounded hungry and in search of a new sonic ground. More recently, Sonic Highways found Grohl travelling across the US in search of more storied songwriting, and while Concrete and Gold was uneven, it worked best when the band tapped into the heavier side of their seventh and eighth records. On Medicine at Midnight, Foo Fighters don't seem interested in breaking new ground or even retracing past highs, they just sound tired.
There are some mildly decent tracks here - grungy Nirvana throwback 'No Son of Mine' is about as charged as the band gets throughout these thirty six minutes, while closer 'Love Dies Young' saves best for last with a patented Dave Grohl ''we're all in this together'' singalong anthem in the vein of 'Times Like These' or 'These Days', which Foo's just about pull off to end on a high note. Conversely, 'Chasing Birds' reaches for classic territory in The Color and the Shape's 'Walking After You' but it can't muster up the vulnerable power of Grohl's greatest ballad.
The kindest thing you can say about Medicine at Midnight is that it certainly doesn't outstay its welcome at nine tracks just clocking in over the half hour mark, and you could forget its contents in the same space of time. Perhaps this is the harmless sound of a quarantine project gone wrong, the kind of half assed recording that wouldn't have seen the light of day if we weren't all locked up for the past year, or a more damning sign of the band's direction as they enter double figures on their discography. Either way, when the world is back to normal and Foo Fighters are doing what they do best, rocking out to the masses on the inevitably sold out Medicine at Midnight world tour, don't be surprised to find these tracks apologetically buried in the middle of a setlist that's still bookended by 'All My Life' and 'Everlong'.
3.5 / E
Best Tracks: 'Love Dies Young'
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