While some artists were keen to wait out the pandemic before releasing music, Billie Joe Armstrong took advantage of the extra time on his hands to release a series of covers that known as the No Fun Mondays compilation. He covered a wide breadth of artists from almost all genres, including The Bangles, The Clash, John Lennon, and Tommy James and the Shondells. Despite the branded name, these songs turned out to be quite the enjoyable listening experience as Billie Joe showcased his impressive knowledge of historical artists and made each rendition feel updated for new ears.
The set kicks off with the Tommy James and the Shondells’ classic, “I Think We’re Alone Now” that got most of its longevity from the 80’s cover by the artist known as Tiffany. The guitar-based cover song stays true to the basic arrangement of the original, and Billie Joe’s trademark vocal performance is still up to par. “War Stories” by The Starjets quickly follows the opener and keeps the momentum going for a perfect slab of melodic punk rock well within the repertoire of the Green Day front-man. Billie Joe does an impressive job of commanding the track while going into his higher register on the chorus and bridge as he delivers a worthwhile rendition.
”Manic Monday” is one of the most recognizable tracks on this set, and Billie Joe stays true to the Bangles’ pop classic by playing it without much variation. And when a pop song is so perfectly crafted like this one, why change it up? He does some interesting production elements by layering his vocals on the verses to make for a fuller sounding approach, as he couldn’t rely on outsiders due to the on-going pandemic.
”Corpus Christi,” originally by The Avengers follows, and Billie Joe does the song justice with his perfectly placed pop-punk sneer that he has cut his teeth to over the years. The song is a pretty straight-forward rendition to the original, and he nails the guitar solo at the midway point to prevent the track from getting to bogged down. The Wonders’ “That Thing You Do!” follows the track with a more slowed down version, similar to the make-believe band from the movie’s version. The perfectly penned pop song by Fountains of Wayne’s late songwriter Adam Schlesinger makes for a great mid-set moment as Billie Joe howls over his guitar.
The Spanish-guitar flavored “Amico” (originally by Don Backy) features some great start and stop hooks, and Billie Joe’s pronunciations of each lyric are on-point and never comes across as a clumsy effort. The Guns N’ Roses Spaghetti Incident classic, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Round a Memory” ended up being my personal favorite from the set as Billie Joe makes it seem like he had been playing the song for years, and really took command of the track to make it his own. From the intricate guitar playing to the casual build up to the melodic chorus, the performance on this song really stuck with me.
The back half of the record starts on the right foot with a rousing rendition of “Kids in America” that was originally penned by Kim Wilde, and famously covered by a band called The Muffs. Billie Joe nails the spirit of the original chorus with some well-placed “whoa-ohs” to further accentuate each of the punchy lyrical lines.
Other songs in the back half that stood out to me on repeat listens were the perfect simplicity of Shaun Cassidy’s “That’s Rock n’ Roll” that would have fit well with the stylistic choices found on the Foxboro Hottubs record, to the sped up rendition of the John Lennon classic “Gimme Some Truth” that ended up being the most drastically changed version of the tracks found on No Fun Mondays. Billie Joe ends up giving the Lennon-penned track its punk-tinged moment as he gives the song some fresh legs for a new audience. The simple guitar licks on “Whole Wide World” (by Wreckless Eric) was most recently covered on Cage the Elephant’s live album, and Billie Joe may have looked to that version for some further inspiration as he stays in the same vein of that rendition. He introduces some additional tambourine into the track to give it some additional variety to the set. The Clash’s “Police on my Back” also seems tailor-made for Billie Joe’s approach to songwriting as he delivers another noteworthy performance.
Album closer, “A New England” by Billy Bragg leaves the listener wanting more as the song does a nice job of wrapping up the performances that Billie Joe breathed new life into over quarantine. This collection of songs doesn’t stray too far from the original versions, but it will hopefully become a “gateway drug” for newer listeners to check out the original bands that wrote these memorable tunes to discover a whole new world of artists that changed the musical landscape.