Turn it on and shake it up.
I bet if you asked Billy Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, and Mike Dirnt what the reason was, they’d say, “American Idiot.” The question would be, what prompted their new album, Father of All Motherf*****s, and why is it so drastic?
Well, drastic in the ears of longtime Green Day-only fans. Drastic in the sense that the band goes full-on glam rock, garage rock, hard pop, and so on. It’s a major shift from their last studio album, Revolution Radio, which if you read my previous review of it, you’d know I was not a fan of. Billy Joe sounded like his voice was blown out and struggling, and the rest of the band sounded uninspired and, worse, phoning in the anger. What I failed to catch fully at that time was just how little fun they were having with it.
Think about it. Green Day comprises three restless individuals who crave stimulation. That’s what fueled their artistic pinnacle, American Idiot, in the first place. It’s a rock opera, for heaven’s sake! The very definition of “self-satisfied bloat,” as so many critics might have said. Instead, it received praise, many hits, and a Broadway adaptation. It wasn’t the only time this punk band bucked the common knowledge and succeeded. Think of the incessantly played acoustic ballad “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” Think of Billy Joe’s collaboration with Norah Jones, Foreverly. How about the band’s undercover jaunts as mystery ’80s pop band The Formula, or garage rockers Foxboro Hot Tubs?
How often do you think these guys could stand someone asking when American Idiot Part 2 was coming? From it’s personally defaced Idiot cover art on Father of All… to the decidedly glam/pop direction, to the rumors that this is the final album on their current Reprise Records contract, the rather un-punk sound might be the very definition of the punk ethos, complete with the smell of burning bridges underpinning the whole thing.
That said, if you can get over the shock of it all, the album’s not bad. It captures the fun that Revolution Radio lacked and finds the bandmembers reveling in the musical hotel-trashing by NOT throwing the TVs out of the fourth story windows.
Anyone who caught sight that regular producer/collaborator Rob Cavallo was replaced by pop provocateur Butch Walker should have realized then they were getting more Marvelous 3 than Rancid. And just as Walker has done for so many others, he’s polished up the hooks like chrome mirror balls. If you’re open to the experience, you might find yourself enjoying this surprisingly short record.
Sadly, if the majority of reviews out there are an indication, they’re not.
I get it. Green Day is one of the last of the ’90s mainstream punk wave to still be out and about. People have expectations riding on them staying in amber, staying all fired up about the culture, about the politics, about all the reasons people should be pissed off right now, but 33 years into this game and the same old story is still the same, just ever older.
I give the band a ton of credit. They could have taken the easy bet and actually done Idiot Two, knowing that their cred would have been as tarnished as people claim Father of All… will do. It’s a no-win situation, so they decided to go out in a hip-shaking blaze of instigation, and it sounds good.
As a matter of fact, if you were a big fan of the Foxboro Hot Tubs record, this is much more a sequel to that, more than competent, more worthy of recognition than it is getting. If you are willing to set aside your notions of what Green Day always has to be, you might allow yourself to enjoy it. Is it the height of their career? No way, but it is not the depths of it either. Turn it on and shake it up.