Green Day is one of the rock bands that has been in the backdrop of most of my life. ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ showed up on the radio shortly after I moved to Canada from Britain at the tender age of nine; American Idiot introduced me to punk and emo, and as I learned how to navigate the internet, I fell in love with their older albums (Dookie, Nimrod, Warning and even their bizarre debut 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours).
Of course, it’s not until now as an adult that the fury behind a lot of their music is something I can fully understand. It’s why Father of All Motherf-ckers is an album I’ve been eagerly awaiting – and it hasn’t disappointed. It’s a short, high-energy, pop-punk party, slipping cynical and hypercritical lyrics behind fast-paced guitar riffs and Joan Jett samples. It’s been out for less than 48 hours (at the time of me writing this) and I already have half the songs stuck in my head.
What I find interesting, then, is the amount of criticism the album has been getting for ‘playing it safe’. Quite aside from some of the obvious issues with this (the album cover is a spoof of American Idiot with a smoking cartoon unicorn), there seems to be an odd conception within music circles that Green Day has said all there is to say. To which I ask, why are short, snappy songs less important or less valuable? Why are songs meant to make you dance immediately less relevant, whether or not they have lyrics about turning bullets into rockets, counting money and stabbing people in the heart?
The answer is, they’re not. Jesus of Suburbia is an incredible song, but it’s Holiday that people remember. Post-rock, wandering explorations of how desperate and depressing our world is are fine and good, but my favourite Trump hit-song has been the blistering and short Unamerican by Dead Sara. You can diss the American government in your experimental songs all you want, but Green Day knows what they’re good at and what the suicidal, desperate masses of millenials want – something that’s angry, but also a little fun. We are, after all, the masters of dadaist humour, and Green Day (a Gen X band, and not boomers as people have tried to call them – Kurt Cobain is rolling in his grave) are our precursors in sarcasm and dark jokes.
Now for a track-by-track breakdown:
‘Father of All…’ – 8/10. This is what got me excited for the album – it’s the perfect meld of Dookie-style grunge-rock and 21st Century Breakdown/American Idiot political criticism.
‘Fire Ready Aim’ – 7/10. Not as fun as ‘Father of All…’ but still a fast-paced, pop-punk song in the true tradition of it. The lyrics are a little undirected, although ‘rip it up on retribution’ is a pretty fun line.
‘Oh Yeah!’ – 10/10. My unexpected favourite, not only does this sample Joan Jett’s ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me’, it donates proceeds to a sexual assault charity because of Gary Glitter’s unsavory past and uses the unabashedly-sexual song as a base for some of the best poli-poetry on the album. “I got blood on my hands in my pockets/That’s what you get turning bullets into rockets.”
‘Meet Me On The Roof’ – 6/10. Fun, but ultimately forgettable – it’s the only true ‘party song’ on the album and as a result, it’s catchy and not much else.
‘I Was A Teenage Teenager’ – 8/10. I didn’t expect to like this one from the title, but it’s so nice to hear songs from older bands that acknowledge that being a teenager fucking sucks. It manages to be catchy while still being faintly depressing and a wonderful outlet for the adolescent rage I still remember very well.
‘Stab You In the Heart’ – 9/10. AMAZINGLY catchy and vicious. It manages to take on the narrator’s POV of a jealous, murdering husband without ever coming off as taking his side – I’m reminded of what ‘Send Her To Heaven’ by All-American Rejects tried and failed to do.
‘Sugar Youth’ – 8/10. Reminds me of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ by Sweet mixed by Green Day staple ‘She’s A Rebel’. I actually like this much more than ‘She’s A Rebel’ – it’s more complex, and the lyrics feel like a mix between a drug high and a bipolar hypomanic episode, probably deliberately.
‘Junkies on a High’ – 8/10. Probably the weirdest song on the album, but I like it. It’s chilled out and slower, with a lot of MCR and White Stripes vibes. It’s more somber, while still being immensely sarcastic, and told from the perspective of a junkie watching the world end. The chorus gives me hella frisson, especially the ending line. “…and we’ll watch the world, BUUUUUUURN!”
‘Take the Money and Crawl’ – 7/10. This is one of the few songs that I’ll say was overproduced – this would have been fine as a straightforward, pared-down punk-rock banger, and while some of the stuff on the instruments is fine, I found myself wanting to hear BJA’s voice unfiltered.
‘Graffitia’ – 10/10. A mix of gorgeous (and harmonized!) vocals with simple and hard-hitting guitar riffs and heartbroken lyrics, ‘Graffitia’ is a worthy and nostalgic successor to ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ and ‘Before the Lobotomy’. It’s not acknowledged enough how good Green Day is at – very specifically – hitting on the ennui and overwhelmed sadness at the core of modern anger. There’s too many things for us to care about at once, but we’re trying.
Green Day’s Father of All, Motherf-ckers is streaming on Spotify!