Hello? Knock, knock. Hello? Anyone in there? The new Foo Fighters album is out. Oh yeah, I guess you’re right. This fact isn’t that noteworthy. But ya know how we’re into paying attention to things that aren’t noteworthy these days, like that Michael Jordan documentary that aired last April? There, I figured that would get you tuned in.
So Medicine at Midnight, the Foo’s 10th full-length (and standing at a trim, refreshingly brief 36 minutes, at that) has been widely reported as originally slated for 2020 but delayed because of the pandemic. Well isn’t that just a gushy underdog story there! It’s also felicitous in my ears for, unlike the last Pearl Jam album, not just being this giant ball of Velveeta Cheese least-common-denominator amalgamation of flavor-of-the-week issues in our politics and culture. It doesn’t sound like it was written by Steven Colbert, in other words. The wayward, meandering lyricism in “Making a Fire” and the tense use of space and off-kilter drum beat of “Shame Shame” bespeak an experience that’s personal, or more “rock,” in other words.
And Dave Grohl seems like the kind of dude who, though pretty much impeccably nice, as far as I’ve gathered, just can’t seem to keep his face out of headlines. One recent one I remember was his plea in concert to start a petition to bring Oasis back, to which Noel Gallagher clapped back that he wanted to start a petition to break up the Foo’s.
Well, Medicine at Midnight doesn’t sound like an Oasis album, luckily, and it does sound like the work of a collective the recipients of some life frustration, also probably a feather in its cap. “Cloudspotter” walks a rejuvenated line of James Brown R&B and fuzz-informed alt-rock approximating something like Stabbing Westward covering Buckcherry. Our first stab at acoustic balladry comes at track four with “Waiting on a War” and sidesteps cringe-worthy “Best of You” territory in a couple pleasantly surprising ways. One is that it’s less dramatic, which certainly seems pretty feasible in general, and another is that the lyrics are hilariously schizophrenic to a refreshing extent: “I’ve been waiting on a war since I was young / Since I was a little boy with a toy gun / Never really wanted to be number one / Just wanted to love everyone”. The whole thing seems to betoken just one dude getting fu**ed up and writing a rock song because that’s what he loves doing — not that “trying to throw your arms around the world” trap Pearl Jam fell into of trying to soundtrack everybody’s lives in one fell swoop.
Also, doesn’t that sum up the Foo Fighters perfectly: never wanting to be number one? He**, following Nirvana, trying to be number one certainly would have entailed looking pretty foolish. In a way, this band has always been about just rocking out straight from the hip, and despite the string-drenched, compressed production we get from Greg Kurstin, this album is still rife with enough human elements and corridors of originality to, oddly, kind of tide you over until the new Dinosaur Jr. release.