Seasoned vets scale back
Since Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt first met in a middle school cafeteria in the mid-1980s, Green Day has been getting progressively bigger. They originally hung around hipster punk clubs in the East Bay, but Armstrong’s ear for pop hooks helped them graduate the underground scene and move into major label territory. They rose quickly to success as the de facto torchbearers of a punk revival, backed by catchy three-chord anthems with snarky, self-deprecating lyrics.
But they weren’t done progressing. In the early 2000s, their simple punk sound was replaced with politically charged arena rock, which gave the band a new role in the music scene as activists. Suddenly, three mild-mannered stoners from Berkeley were the face of a national anti-Bush movement. After President Obama took office and the members started reaching middle age, the lyrics became less angry and more hopeful. When Obama was replaced with the divisive President Trump, and the band voiced their opposition to him, fans began expecting something more aggressive than ever before- a gigantic protest record for the new generation. It took until 2020 but their new album has been finally released, right when it feels like the country is teetering on the brink…
This is why it’s such a surprise to announce that the new record titled Father of All… (short for Father of All Motherfuckers) is very much not what was expected. In fact, it’s the opposite: it’s simple and fun, barely clocking in over 25 minutes, with almost no politics in the lyrics. Armstrong has stated in an interview with Kerrang, that he was tired of the lack of creative writing that political themes gave him, and so Father of All’s… songs largely stem from a dip into his old record collection and some unstructured studio jam sessions and have little to no lyrical continuity.
The most surprising fact is that across the album’s 10 tracks, there’s more genre experimentation than on previous records. The title track is a standard in-your-face Green Day anthem, but there’s also modern garage rock (“Oh Yeah”), doo-wop (“Meet Me on The Roof”), and ‘90s Weezer-y power-pop (“I Was a Teenage Teenager”). The album’s party vibe gets accentuated with handclaps and piano hits throughout, and Armstrong ditches his traditional sneering delivery for a cheeky falsetto.
It’s obvious that people need and want a new protest anthem to channel their rage into for this anxiety-inducing time, and they expected Green Day to provide it. Unfortunately for them, this is not the case. If you want a half-hour break from politics, crank up Father of All… because it’s a hell of a good time. The world may be burning around us, but in the meantime Green Day want us to remember it’s okay to still have fun once in a while. And sometimes that’s all it takes to turn things around.