Foo Fighters released their tenth studio album, Medicine at Midnight, Friday after months of social media lead-up and performances. The enduring rock band has stayed together for over 25 years, due in no small part to legendary frontman Dave Grohl, who originally earned fame as the drummer for Nirvana.
The album is only nine tracks long, though many of the Foo Fighters’ albums are only a song or two longer. Three songs (“Shame Shame,” “No Son of Mine,” and “Waiting on a War”) were released as singles to promote the album alongside trippy visuals on their Instagram.
To preface, I have listened to this band for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Monkey Wrench” had been playing in the car as I was brought home for the first time. I’ve seen them in concert, and I’ve watched their hilariously weird music videos. “Everlong” is my favorite song of all time, and Dave Grohl is “My Hero.” None of that has changed, but to write a negative review of this band is heartbreaking.
The album is missing that spark that makes Foo Fighters the great band their previous albums prove them to be. I wonder if, as they’ve aged, they’ve decided to relax on rocking out and explore other directions. What else could explain the complete lack of nostalgia and awe I felt while listening to the new album? Many of the songs exhibited shades of Foo Fighters’ past — Grohl’s energetic yelling on “Cloudspotter,” drummer Taylor Hawkins’ rumbling toms on “No Son Of Mine.” However, it feels like they’re holding back.
Without even comparing this album to their previous work, it’s unremarkable. It doesn’t keep up with the competition— the young hard rock band Highly Suspect has a significantly better album in their 2015 debut, Mister Asylum. The crux of this project’s failure is in the quiet moments. Foo Fighters had mastered the ability to create a low-energy but melodic verse that creates tension to be released in their explosive, head-banging choruses. Here, those moments fall short — and some are even boring.
Medicine at Midnight inches dangerously close to mediocrity. The guitar riffs that drive so much of Foo Fighters’ music are uncharacteristically dull. Like the title track, some songs err on being too complex, and others, such as “Love Dies Young,” are far too simple. It’s not like I saw this disappointment coming, either; I really enjoyed their last album, 2017’s Concrete and Gold, and I fell in love with the deeper alternative sounds they employed on that album. This was a complete surprise.
Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t an unlistenable album. Those aforementioned explosive, head-banging choruses hit each time. Grohl always knows which chords to play, and “Waiting On A War” and “Making A Fire” surely struck a chord within me. Intentional or not, there’s a clever moment on “Holding Poison” where Grohl sings the word “around” in the form of a round, a musical term for the same melody sung at the same time but beginning separately, used to create a sort of powerful echo effect. There are moments of greatness, but they are few and far between.
For me, this band is the definitive example of hard rock. While many would consider them dad rock (to be fair, my dad did first introduce them to me), rock ‘n’ roll lovers can’t be disappointed by the band’s typical guitar-driven melodies and intricate songwriting. Because of this, my disappointment was immense at the newest entry in their discography. Maybe it needs time to grow on me, maybe I’ve grown cynical as Grohl has grown older.
Whatever the reason, Medicine at Midnight doesn’t deliver. Is it a fluke, or are we witnessing the early decline of hard rock’s most dominating, illustrious act?