Release Date: February 7th, 2020
Usually, you know what to expect from a Green Day album: punchy punk rock anthems with roaring riffs, big production, and the occasional ballad. So when the band dropped “Father of All” back in September, it was a shock to the system. Why does it sound weird? Where’s the loud, in your face Green Day we know? What the hell is Billie Joe doing with his vocals? It took everything we knew about the band and threw it out the window. This was only the beginning of what is so far the band’s weirdest era. But no one could have guessed it would give us one of their most fun and diverse records in years.
Green Day threw out their own rulebook on Father of All Motherfuckers. There are no multi-part songs, no heartfelt ballads, and the “classic Green Day sound” is downplayed. Instead, they give us a short and sweet record inspired by their love of Motown soul, 60s rock n roll, and dirty garage rock. And it’s a wild ride. Clocking in at 26 minutes, the songs are quick, energetic, upbeat, and sometimes unexpectedly bleak. While singles “Oh Yeah!” and “Fire, Ready, Aim” are the weakest points on the album, the rest of the album is unabashed, groovy rock n roll.
The stand out track “Meet Me on the Roof” has an irresistible vintage rock n roll swing, while “Sugar Youth” is the closest we get to “classic Green Day” with frantic guitars and pummeling energy that’s hard to keep up with. “Take the Money and Crawl” is a sleazy garage rock banger with lots of attitudes while “Stab You In the Heart” echoes the bouncy style of 60s rock even though it sounds suspiciously similar to “Hippie Hippie Shake).” While some tracks are better than others, there’s not a single skippable track. The songs may have the “fuck everything, let’s party” vibe, but there’s still a darkness lurking underneath the roaring guitars and upbeat grooves.
In recent interviews, Billie Joe said the new album doesn’t talk about American politics and while none of the songs deal with it directly, its influence is felt all over the record. The anthemic 70s rock-influenced “Oh Yeah!” deals with society’s screen obsession and references school shootings. “Graffitia” sounds bright and vibrant with its Motown swing, but talks about police brutality and Rust Belt towns losing their identities. Armstrong gets eerily morbid on the hip hop inspired “Junkies On a High” as he contemplates if he’s the next “rock n roll tragedy.” Even the title track references feelings of paranoia and anxiety. Green Day aren’t ignoring what’s happening in the world. Rather, they’re aware of it, but just want to take a break from the anger and worry and dance for a bit.
This is the record Green Day needed to reinvigorate themselves. They’ve been living in the shadow of American Idiot for 15 years and it feels like they’ve finally let go of trying to match its success. Not every album has to be a grandiose affair with nine-minute epics, biting political commentary and heartfelt ballads. Does that mean there’s not another epic record in them? No, it’s just not in them right now. Now, it’s just unabashed rock music that’s fast, fiery, and furious. It sounds like they’re having a good time. That’s not to say their previous albums sounded disingenuous, but they often suffered from trying to top their most popular albums.
21st Century Breakdown saw them rehash the rock opera idea with mixed results. The Trilogy was an overblown attempt at a carefree, sleazy rock album that suffered from too many subpar songs. Revolution Radio was a return to “classic Green Day” and while it’s a great album they stuck to their own formula. That’s not the case here. Instead of showing off their punk rock influences, they’re highlighting their love of Motown, The Beatles, soul, and even a bit of hip hop. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does and it’s fantastic. The songs are punchy, loud, and a good ass time.
The album shows Green Day going in a different direction and it’s refreshing. Is it groundbreaking? No, but that’s not the point. They didn’t set out to change the face of rock music (again). They wanted to have a good time and take a few risks. It’s a sound they’ve previously hinted at with projects like The Longshot and Foxboro Hot Tubs, yet it’s still distinctly Green Day. 34 years into their career it’s great to see the band is still willing to take chances and shake things up, even if it’s not a hit with everyone.
Father of All Motherfuckers isn’t a perfect record and it doesn’t hold a candle to their other albums, but damn is it a good time. For 26 heart rushing minutes, Green Day asks you to put aside your worries and party with them. And the raucous songs make it hard to resist them. Its short length makes it easy for repeated listens, but also leaves you unsatisfied at times. Right as you start getting into the songs, they’re over before you know it. Still, it’s the scuzzy party record they tried to make in 2012 with The Trilogy, except more focused. The album isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to put aside your expectations of what Green Day should sound like, you’re in for one hell of a ride.