When I last sat down to write about a Billie Joe Armstrong project, I put my thoughts down on a band called The Longshot. What I wasn’t expecting from the new Green Day album, called Father of All Motherfuckers, is for that aforementioned side project to surpass the quality of the much more established brand. But alas, on Green Day’s 13th studio album, they have taken a few steps backward as they try and regain their footing. At first, it was tough for me to put my finger on where it went wrong on this record, but after re-listening to the album a few more times since its release date, it just isn’t as strong as I have come to expect from the pop-punk giants. Produced by Butch Walker, Chris Dugan, and Green Day, the album should have been a momentous creative igniter for the band to re-solidify themselves right before their most prominent touring stint in recent memory (the Hella Mega Tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy). But instead, the final mixes of this record feel like they are missing a key ingredient in what made the band such a fun time in the first place.
Starting the set off with the Black Keys-esque sounding “Father of All Motherfuckers” is a curious choice for Green Day, as it immediately starts off this new era of the band by casting a lot of doubt on their direction. Whether it be Billie Joe attempting some falsetto vocals that don’t sound like himself at all, or the down-trodden hand claps and Motown elements thrown into the mix, it feels like the band was putting too much into the blender and powering on the device without putting the lid back on. Things don’t improve too much on their other recently released singles that follow the strange opener with “Fire, Ready, Aim” and “Oh Yeah!” On “Fire Ready Aim,” Billie Joe again uses an interesting vocal approach that falls somewhere between himself and Jack White. The unfortunate part behind it is that it begins to become that much clearer that he and the band didn’t think this one all the way through. While the band mentioned in several interviews that they were trying to “create a mess” on this album, this surely couldn’t have been the endgame, right? “Oh Yeah!” rocks like a White Stripes song with a little bit of the pompous stomp of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” yet the band doesn’t put forth their usual swagger and trademark elements on this effort.
“Meet Me On the Roof” makes the attempt of being a dancehall worthy song with Billie Joe singing, “I’m crawling on the dance floor / I think I lost my phone / Feeling like a toothache / My face is going numb / I beg a thousand pardons / All my friends are crazy / Hanging from the window / And all you gotta do is jump.” The song is catchier than the first three songs, but it lacks the overall weight and substance of what we have grown accustomed to. Other songs like, “I Was a Teenage Teenager” with its pulsating Mike Dirnt bass line bring things back into focus a little bit. Still, it’s hard to imagine the band setting the bar this low for themselves after so much great material that came before them in their storied career.
“Stab You In the Heart” sounds like a track that could have better fit on a Foxboro Hottubs album, while “Sugar Youth” brings back some of the missing energy and power from the earlier songs on Father of All Motherfuckers. Billie Joe sings quickly and confidently on the latter track, “I got the shakes and I’m on fire / I got a feeling and it’s dangerous / I’m gonna dance to something wild / I got a feeling and I need a rush.” Still, the song is over as quickly as it begins without saying much of substance. The entire record seems as rushed as I can ever remember a Green Day album being with the track titles averaging about two and a half minutes each and the total running time clocking in at just over 26 minutes. That would make this the shortest album in Green Day’s discography, and maybe that was the overall intention: come in, get the cheap thrills, and get the hell out of there. The major problem with this strategy and, in turn the record altogether is it’s perfectly fine to work on your brevity on an album, but if it doesn’t say anything, what are you really left with?
In the end, we’re left with one of the few later career missteps in Green Day’s history as a band. They tried to come in and “make a mess,” but they sound like a band who forgot to come back the next day to apologize and clean up their friend’s house that they just trashed. Green Day are big enough of a band to recover from this, and I hope they will use the Hella Mega Tour to revitalize themselves and recognize the power and beauty of their earlier material in some of the biggest state-wide shows to date.