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Foo Fighters offer antidote with new 10th album ‘Medicine at Midnight’

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 11, 2021

If Dave Grohl retired after the release of 1999’s “There’s Nothing Left to Lose,” the leader of the Foo Fighters could have been like his former Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain. The late Nirvana leader kept ascending before he perished, which is a rock rarity.

Grohl had accomplished the near impossible. Just six months after Cobain’s suicide, Grohl was in the studio crafting the Foo Fighters’ eponymous debut by his lonesome. The trick was that he morphed from Nirvana drummer to charismatic Foo Fighter frontman while touring behind an album full of powerful yet melodic alt-rock gems.

No drummer had accomplished that feat. Yes, Phil Collins’ version of Genesis became a commercial monster headlining stadiums, but art-rock fans and critics complained about how the music was never on the level of the band’s early work with the innovative Peter Gabriel.

Ringo Starr deserves more credit as the Beatles drummer and is a charming singer, but he’s dependent on his All-Starr Band.

Grohl never needed any help making music, and he’s such an entertaining frontman. After crafting a collection of compelling alt-rockers such as “This Is a Call,” “For All the Cows,” “Everlong,” “My Hero” and “Learn to Fly,” Grohl and his Foo Fighters have released a succession of solid but unspectacular albums during this century.

Over the past 20 years, the Foo Fighters have often been the Applebee’s of rock. What the Foo Fighters serve up tastes all right and it’s filling, but it’s often just not memorable.

The Foo Fighters have moved in another direction, however, with their 10th album, “Medicine at Midnight,” which drops Friday. The project is a return to form and their finest project since “There’s Nothing Left to Lose.”

The group’s first album since 2017’s “Concrete and Gold” is the lightest, loosest album of its quarter-century run. Yes, it’s difficult to believe that the Foo Fighters have been around that long and Nirvana existed for only seven years, which is the same span as the Police, another short-lived iconic rock trio.

Just when fans thought that the Foo Fighters would repeat the formula the group ran with for five consecutive albums, the band has veered a bit to the left. It’s a nice change, and it’s what Grohl has needed to do for years, which is to make an album with some rhythm and grooves.

The funky, urgent and catchy “Cloudspotter” is the one of the best songs the Foo Fighters have crafted. “Love Dies Young” moves off in a surprising direction. In the past, such a tune would just be a straightforward rocker, but the song turns into a rump shaker.

There are the four on the floor rave-ups such as the powerful and familiar-sounding “No Son of Mine” and the ballads like “Chasing Birds” and “Waiting on a War.” “Medicine at Midnight” is a party album, which will be best served live, and it has helped resuscitate the band .

It’s good to see Grohl morph and craft a worthwhile album with his band since he is one of rock’s nicest and most inspiring entertainers. Grohl, like Bruce Springsteen, exudes an everyman quality as if anybody can pick up a guitar or step behind a drum kit and follow their dreams.

But it takes some talent and considerable work ethic, and Grohl and the Boss spent more than 10,000 hours honing their craft by the time they were 21. After screening his entertaining and informative documentary “Sound City,” about a Los Angeles recording studio at South By Southwest eight years ago, Grohl detailed his cinematic approach in the theater lobby.

Grohl waxed about how he made the film and compared it to his musical background in which he’s self-taught. It’s easy to see why Grohl is so beloved by fans. Aside from being arguably rock’s finest drummer and a more-than-capable singer-songwriter-guitarist, Grohl is an unabashed aficionado.

I remember how enthusiastic Grohl was when I interviewed him just before Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released. Grohl gushed about his favorite recording artists. Three decades later, Grohl was at it again waxing about his sonic heroes after his film documentary screened and before he performed with the Sound City Players at SXSW.

Stevie Nicks, Rick Nielsen and John Fogerty were among the rock iconoclasts who joined Grohl for a rollicking show that was a sheer blast to experience. All that’s left is for Grohl to return to the stage with the Foo Fighters, who have always been entertaining live. The Foo Fighters delivered a 24-song set at the Spokane Arena in December 2017. An array of hits were rendered along with a few covers, such as Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels.”

The Cooper cut is fitting since the Foo Fighters at their core are a gritty rock band who smacks of the 1970s. But the group has finally updated its sound with “Medicine at Midnight.”

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