Dave Grohl has spent the past decade scouring the US for his own spirit. He made 2011’s Wasting Light in his garage to try to recapture his teenage exuberance, 2014’s Sonic Highways in a variety of America’s most storied studios to try to borrow their mythology, and 2017’s Concrete And Gold in California’s spiritual Shangri-la Ojai, as if looking within himself for rock enlightenment.
Along the way he’s worked with such luminaries as Justin Timberlake, Alison Mosshart and Ben Gibbard, with Eagles and Beatles and Cheap Tricks, in the hope of crossing the sonic streams.
For tenth album Medicine At Midnight, recorded pre-lockdown, he’s even ventured beyond the physical realm, recording in a nearby haunted house with, he claims, poltergeists adjusting the pedalboard levels overnight.
Ironically, it’s injected new life into Foo Fighters. Where Concrete And Gold was an unspoken homage to the pivotal rock records of the late 60s and 70s (Motorhead’s Sgt Pepper, Grohl intended), Medicine At Midnight is his most future-facing album of recent years.
Locked out of the singles charts in the streaming age, many rock acts have courted pop audiences of late, attempting to remain competitive (Smashing Pumpkins, The Killers). Foo Fighters are equally ambitious. They hired Sia and P!nk’s producer Greg Kurstin to add flecks of contemporary titanium to Concrete, and last April Grohl happily murdered Times Like These alongside Dua Lipa and Jess Glynne for charity.
Medicine, however, melts modern pop textures into Grohl’s trademark grunge-pop ballast with panache, and inspires some of his most infectious choruses since the 90s. Shame Shame gilds a canyon rock core with piston R&B beats, hand claps and soulful asides; Making A Fire resembles a catchy collaboration between AC/DC and TLC; and the verses of the funksome title track could have fallen off Thriller.
As a result, the nine tracks (36 minutes) of Medicine At Midnight slip down easy. It’s the zippiest Foos album to date, and largely unburdened by the dark-times politicising that thickened Concrete.
What’s more, it reassures its rock base as it goes; the pure fireball rock of No Son Of Mine and Holding Poison burn out the album’s early funk tendrils at the root, mid-paced ballad Chasing Birds couldn’t be more Imagine if it had an emotionless Yoko on vibes, and the record closes with one of the most euphoric anthems about the pointlessness of relationships ever recorded.
As a modern rock melting pot, Medicine certainly sounds like a spirit rediscovered.