‘Father of All Motherfuckers’ Is a Speedy Histrionic Rush From Green Day
Green Day is, in many ways, the quintessential American pop punk band. When they arrived on the scene, they blew up instantly, as if they came with a sound that had been long in the making, and suddenly struck a chord that was waiting to resonate. It hit right away, and over the years, took different forms, in recent years going the route of musical theater, for better or for worse. Always, however, the band has shown a distinctive spirit that naturally strikes a chord with the adolescent mentality, a playful spirit, with a penchant for the theatrical. Their latest album, “Father of All Motherfuckers” is an amalgamation of various sounds explored in recent years, that gives a satisfying conglomeration of the band in all its glory.
“Father of All Motherfuckers” begins with distorted vocals, plenty of fuzz, but a type of melody that screams of pop punk a la Buzzcocks, treated with some grit in its presentation that functions as a bit of a disclaimer for the commercial tendencies. I’s a punchy, readymade banger that strikes as one of Green Day’s myriad distinctive voices that they’ve made their own over the years, and it works just about right as an opener to set the stage, and get the ball rolling. The promisingly titled “Fire, Ready, Aim” follows seamlessly, and at once, it becomes clear that Green Day has taken a bit of a stylistic detour, with recent albums centering on a decidedly theatrical bent, one that won over a whole new strate of fans, but also alienated a portion of the original fans. The new sound strikes a balance that teases elements of both the original form and the later iterations in a way that works effortlessly.
Green Day has not shied away from making overt political statements, for instance “American Idiot,” sometimes controversially. “Oh Yeah” follows in this tradition, exploring the obsession with social media plaguing the country, as well as the gun crime epidemic. In a telling comment, Billie Joe Armstrong commented, “I just feel like with all of the chaos going on, no-one ever hesitates to take a good selfie.” If there were ever a more pointed way to capture misdirected energy in a way that stems directly from a confused zeitgeist, Armstrong has centered on it. Next comes “Meet Me on the Roof,” a particularly punk-titled song. There are vague traces of Bowie if you listen with a particularly knowing ear. And the refrain of “Come meet me on the roof tonight, girl” is, needless to say, priceless.
“I Was a Teenage Teenager” sounds like it were destined to be a Green Day song, as if they may be taking their self-aware, jokey shtick a little bit further. A song like this was bound to come, and honestly, has come countless times before, just in a less overt form. It’s an ode to the teenage mentality, and in that sense, a bona fide celebration of everything that Green Day represents, for the most part. “Stab You in the Heart” hits hard, turning up the intensity, and adopting a more blues-derived strain of punk rock that nods to early CBGB days, except with hi-fi production, a beefed-up sound, abounding attitude, and a vaguely theatrical bend, with a tinge of New York Dolls flavor to it.
Another speedy track, a flashy snapshot of an intense overwhelming, comes in “Sugar Youth,” a wildly relatable track about essentially being on the prowl, hormones raging, searching for a romantic partner, throwing all caution to the wind. When Armstrong sings, “I got the shakes and I’m on fire / I got a feeling and it’s dangerous,” it gets the point across, and the fast-paced rush of the song seconds everything implied. As if subject matter weren’t getting a bit, say, juvenile enough, the next song is “Junkies On a High.” Actually, however, the song functions as something of a corollary to “Oh Yeah,” in this case, with Armstrong, throwing his arms up in despair, shrugging it off at the state of affairs, and reckoning, “Watch the world burn.” It’s very “Joker,” and very much of the time, at that.
“Take the Money and Crawl” gets a bit power pop, and packs an instant punch. Massive, power chord riffage, screeches, welches, stutters, and hardly any running time. At just over two minutes, this is a new take on pop punk, and a quite successful, singular one at that. To round things off comes “Graffittia,” which finds the band again tapping into their pop theater side. This sounds more like musical fare than pop punk, but considering Green Day’s full trajectory, one has to give them credit for delivering an album, that strikes a fair balance of the sounds that they’ve explored over the years, never seeming lazy, but always giving each of their excursions a proper run.
“Father of All Motherfuckers” is a new type of Green Day Album. Consider that their first albums sounded a bit like The Cure’s “Three Imaginary Boys,” except more decidedly American, and with a lot more playful, juvenile humor. Along the way, they delved into a theatrical excursion that became something of a punk rock lampoon. The latest album is something of a return to form, but not as a blatant revert. Rather, it’s a panoramic, retrospective overlook, that picks all the most salient aspects of their oeuvre, and presents them in a streamlined, satisfying set of songs.
“Father of All Motherfuckers” is available Feb. 7 on Apple Music.