ALBUMS: Foo Minutes To Midnight

A new album, Medicine at Midnight, finds the Foo Fighters sparring with success

Foo Fighters Medicine At Midnight, RCA 2021

The gap that sometimes exists between commercial success and critical kudos can often be a difficult chasm to navigate. Indeed, there might be a wide divide between any adoration accorded by the critics and an act that’s become a mainstream marvel within the public’s perception.

While fame and fortune is often inspiration for an artist determined to achieve success at the top of the charts, the accomplishment can be compromised when substituting more mundane elements in place of an inventive attitude simply for the sake of commercial credibility. It is, after all, easier to hew to a formula that negates ingenuity and imagination in an attempt to achieve immediate acceptance. 


Artist: Foo Fighters

Album: Medicine At Midnight

Label: Roswell/RCA

★★★ 1/2 (3.5/5 stars)


Foo Fighters didn’t start out to garner their popular appeal. Indeed, their early albums boasted a blustery, bombastic attitude borne from leader Dave Grohl’s original role in Nirvana, a band that brought the grunge movement its wider recognition. Their edgy attitude made no concession to any easy appeal. Grohl and company purveyed an insurgent image and attitude that indicated they were aiming to be anything but the darlings of the pop purists. Merry melodies, and catchy choruses were simply not part of their MO. 

Nevertheless, recognition arrived regardless, coming in the form of all sort of industry honors. 

Along with bestselling albums, they’ve tallied several Grammy Awards, a number of Brit Awards, an American Music Award and a pair of MTV Video Music Awards as well. In a way, the success was a result of their proficiently in producing hard rock records with relentless refrains, an uplifting, anthemic approach that kept listeners coming back for more. Granted, it wasn’t for the timid, but then again, the hooks were never really out of reach.

 

VIDEO: Foo Fighters “Shame Shame”

That said, Foo Fighters’s new album, Medicine at Midnight, makes clear that in their case, sales success kind of comes naturally. They don’t seem prone to reject the notion that they might be embraced by the masses while finding their way to the top of the charts. That’s not to say they’ve compromised to any great degree — indeed, the album still boasts its fair share of edge and intensity as evidenced by a song such as “Cloudspotter” — but so too, there’s a clear attempt to encourage listeners to actually sing along. “Shame Shame,” “Making a Fire” and “Waiting on a War” harbor the kind of hooks — be they through shout-outs or grabbing refrains — that create an instant indelible impression.

That said, the real proof of the Foo Fighters desire to seduce the masses is best expressed in 

an unexpected ballad titled “Chasing Birds,” a song that sounds like mid ‘70s period Fleetwood Mac in the sway of Buckingham and Nicks. It’s a track their loyal legions might never have imagined, but it speaks volumes about their willingness to welcome the masses and make the commercial compromises needed in order to lure a new legion of fans that might have been reticent to embrace their efforts before.

In return, former fans might this Medicine at Midnight a hard pill to swallow. Others however may find that this accessible sound is, in fact, just what the doctor ordered.

 

VIDEO: Foo Fighters Medicine At Midnight

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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