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Green Day – Father Of All Motherf**kers Review

February 8, 2020 | Posted by David Hayter
Green Day
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Green Day – Father Of All Motherf**kers Review  

The 21st Century has proved both strange and confounding for Green Day. The Californian punks who used to snottily dissect the tedium of wasting away their days away indoors watching TV and jerking off, have expanded their horizons beyond any and all reasonable expectations. From downhearted ennui and political protest to societal critiques and rock operas, the turn of the millennium saw Billie Joe Armstrong and company tackle increasingly ambitious and pitfall ridden challenges culminating in their triple album (albeit with staggered release dates) Uno! Dos! Tre!

Rather than cementing the band’s status at the vanguard of modern rock, the three-album project instead saw the band (and the scene as a whole) settle into a post-emo rut. Rather than showcasing the breadth of Green Day’s compositional abilities, Uno! Dos! Tre! felt like an exercise in base competence: proof positive that the band could release 37 songs with few peaks or valleys in terms of quality, but little more. 2016’s follow up, Revolution Radio, pressed the reset button blending pop-punk fundamentals with ambitious suites without truly blowing minds.

The arrival of Father Of All Motherfuckers alongside the announcement of the Hella Mega World Tour (featuring Fall Out Boy and Weezer) teased their fanbase with conflicting expectations. The bratty title and bizarre puking unicorn artwork generated worry and excitement in equal measure: simultaneously hinting at a potentially hazardous attempt to modernize the band’s aesthetics while reconnecting with their youth. The legends of rock style tour, on the other hand – sponsored by Harley Davidson no less – pointed towards Green Day accepting their position in the heritage rock pantheon by engaging in an act cosy nostalgia orientated fan service.

Suffice to say, their 13th studio album has been the subject of great speculation in regards both its sound and its themes. Two lingering questions are immediately answered by Father Of All Motherfuckers: firstly, to the disappointment and relief of great swathes of their fans, their latest album is not overtly political: Trump goes unmentioned. He is not the titular “father of all motherfuckers”. This is not an American Idiot sequel. Secondly, Green Day have absolutely no interest in chasing trends: there isn’t a single allusion to either Imagine Dragons’ arena rock (thankfully) or any teenage genre bending transgression, quite the opposite.

Father Of All Motherfuckers is, in fact, a really rather wonderful historical survey of the building blocks of defiantly teenaged rock and roll (more specifically, the teen rock from 1950 to around 2004). It might feel like an exercise in nostalgic regression were the influences not so lovingly and convincingly folded into Green Day’s core sound. From Jerry Lee Lewis and Paul McCartney’s “ooohs” to the new wave snap of The Cars and the strange organ sounds of both The Doors and The Beach Boys to rollicking surf rock of the 50s and its 21st Century revival respectively, Green Day really cover their bases without ever succumbing to a box ticking exercise.

“Stab You In The Heart” captures this aesthetic perfectly. Green Day’s big, bombastic arena sound is transmuted through 1950s call-and-repeat rock & roll, Beatles’ harmonizations, Lil Richard’s screams, rockbilly riffage, glam stomp, handclaps – the works. It’s an absolute riot. The track might be a fundamentally lightweight pot shot at posers, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. If Green Day could fairly be accused of bloating and overblowing their recent releases, then Father Of All Motherfuckers bucks this trend as one blitzkrieg assault follows another. “Sugar Youth” clocks in at a mere 1:54, which is a relief, as this scratchy throwaway is enjoyable in a short burst, but is too threadbare to warrant extended repetition.

The most redolent influence is California itself. The glam inspired dessert rock, often associated with Josh Homme and The Eagles Of Death Metal, makes its present felt throughout the album with its lascivious guitar tone and ironically seductive falsetto backing vocals (“Father Of All…”). But no one sound truly dominates on a Jukebox collection that jumps from jaunty mid-2000s pop-inspired radio rock (“Meet Me on the Roof”) with doo-wop undertones to Sabbath, Zeppelin and Jethro Tull illusions of “Take the Money and Crawl”.

The throwaway retro rock fun and teenage sloganeering might conjure the image of a lightweight album, but Billie Joe finds plenty of room for societal satire. Rather than taking aim at politicians, he instead uses some classic Green Day themes – slackerdom and disillusion – to critique a drugged up and alienated society. “Junkies On A High” broods and grooves recalling “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” were the protagonist to find himself porn addicted, hooked on sugary drinks and obsessed with conspiracy theories, all the while picturing himself as a noble outsider as he drops out, gets high but never tunes into society at large.

This contrast between the defiant individuality we are supposed to exude and the pathetic drudgery of the lives we actually live is a profound theme. The delicious snap and slide of “Take The Money And Crawl” is a mish mash of braggadocio (“I don’t give a fuck…suck my cock”) and submissive monotony (“Do I dare say “please” when I’m on my knees?”). The peppy punk pacing keeps themes loose and interpretive, which suits Green Day better than some of their previous overwritten attempts at social commentary.

Subtlety suits Green Day surprisingly well. “Graffitia” is a triumph because its tale of a generation whose American Dream dies a death in a Rust Belt powerhouse turned ghost town takes a backseat to a wonderful pulsating and pumping arena rock arrangement. Handclaps, slick melodies, Pet Sounds references, “Wah-Oohs” and cheeky R&B inspired backing vocals disguise the misery in our age of automated industry and the gig economy.

There are times when Green Day succumb to an ironic cuteness that does their sound few favors. “I Was a Teenage Teenager” goes through the motions of parodying the throwaway outsider and self-pitying tropes commonly associated with broody teens. It’s all rather droll and could be effective with sharper lyrics or a more vibrant arrangement, but by running through the cliché of dissatisfied youth in rebellion with an eye roll, Green Day only succeed in creating a limp pastiche of an already trite posture. Being a self-aware elder punk doesn’t make the empty sloganeering any more interesting. Green Day are almost too good at writing this sort of anthem – their parody is so on the nose it only serves to remind you of better, more heartfelt Green Day tracks, when they sang it like they meant it, because, frankly, they did.

“Oh Yeah!” is far more effective even if it mirrors some of “I Was A Teenage Teenager” failings as the track details a life obsessed with the  instant rewards and attention seeking behaviours of social media. Everyone is a star and an individual online (albeit surprising homogenous and factional ones), unfortunately their real lives offer only drudgery. The chasm between the perception we project and actuality only grows larger in a world where you’re “the shooting star of a lowered expectation”. Fittingly, the guitar groove that underwrites the track is deliciously grimy compared to the shimmering glitz of the chorus. The trouble is that the chorus is too anodyne for its own good. Again, Green Day are trying to paint a picture of a happy-clappy world of virtual delusion, but they’ve been too effective in sound tracking this digital vapidity. “Oh Yeah!” would work well as a scene setter in a rock opera or concept album, but as a stand-alone track on a breezy Jukebox LP, it’s underwhelming.

Green Day might not want to overstay their welcome, but even at lightening speed they manage to throw an improbably large amount of shit against the wall. “Fire, Ready, Aim” captures the album’s bizarre styles clash perfectly. Imagine a supergroup featuring The Hives’ frontman, The Ceasars’ rhythm section, The Doors’ organist, The Knack’s drummer and Josh Homme in the production booth and you’ll have some idea how much ground the band are covering.

There are as many bad ideas as good on this scattershot love letter to teenage rock, but the album is held together by two x factors: handclaps and breakneck pacing. Almost every song is jauntily addictive thanks to a little human percussion and no track is allowed to overstay its welcome. Father Of All Motherfuckers’ sequencing is also sublime. The tracks might employ a surprisingly diverse array of guitar sound, but each effort rolls into the next delightfully as the album’s sneakily profound themes are explored without belabouring the point.

The result is a remarkably fun album; Green Day could play Father Of All Motherfuckers as a single breakneck suite during their live shows and still have plenty of time to roll out all of their hits. It is hodge-podge of sound whose undeniable cohesion is a credit to Green Day’s compositional skills. There are missteps and the album is devoid of any truly great songs, but as free flowing exploration of our post-industrial, online alienation and their pop/rock/Californian heritage it thrives.

7.0
The final score: review Good
The 411
Green Day's latest offering packs a hell of a lot of content into a breezy 26 minute package. They manage to survey the entire history of teenage rock from Little Richard and The Beatles through The Cars and up until roughly The Hives (or, hell, American Idiot) on this Jukebox LP. Without over egging the omelette they tackle themes of post-industrial purposelessness and the dejection when comparing our daily reality to our online fantasies. There are minor missteps and there is no A-grade material on display, but Father of All Mohterfuckers proves to be a frantic and fun diversion.
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Green Day, David Hayter