Culture

Green Day's 'Father Of All...' Isn't Built to Be Taken Seriously

It's probably the most fun some punk legends could have while fulfilling a contractual ten-album record deal obligation.
07 February 2020, 9:00am
Green Day's New Album 'Father Of All' Isn't Built to Be Taken Seriously
Photo by Pamela Littkey via PR

Green Day’s fanbase aren’t easily satisfied. A recent poll in a Facebook fan group placed 1994’s Dookie as their most popular album and 2004’s American Idiot at number two. The second half of the ranked list featured all but one of the albums released since the latter rock-opera masterpiece, with 2012’s lawless trio of monstrosities ¡UNO!, ¡DOS! and ¡TRE! flushed to the bottom. You don't often see critics offer albums more lukewarm praise than fans can manage (one fan commented under the albums poll, “Very glad to see that DOS doesn’t have a single vote”). But the last 11 years of Green Day material defy that logic. Suffice it to say, disciples don’t expect greatness from one of the best punk bands of all time anymore. But that's very different from believing that Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool are the last three living Californian pop-punks who could provide greatness any time they really wanted.

The enormous success of American Idiot preceded various failed leaps towards those great heights: a fatigued remake of American Idiot's grandiose political formula (21st Century Breakdown), tepid pop-punk records that even frontman Billie Joe Armstrong would later say had “absolutely no direction to them” (that old trio of albums again), and straight-forward pop-rock about capital "I" Issues, like the modern ills of mass shootings and social media (Revolution Radio). Much has been conspiratorially said online of the fact that this new album would be the last in their ten-album deal with Warner Bros. Some believe Green Day is racing to its end, relieved that soon their keepers will relinquish corporate control.

Enter: Father Of All Motherfuckers. The title has sadly been asterisked and reduced to “Father Of All...” (in 2020 even punk bands have marketing and socials teams), and seemed to hint at an anti-Trump record but in an interview with Kerrang! Billie Joe assured fans that the title means nothing at all. Nothing! It’s all a laugh. And genuinely the world doesn’t need an American Idiot remake, when that album's Trumpian dystopia of propaganda and xenophobia are more relevant today than they were in 2004. American Idiot’s title track may have warned of the “age of paranoia” but by the title track of 2020 Father Of All, we're left with a fat jovial chorus of Billie Joe singing, “I got paranoia, baby!”. When politics are this much of a mess, everyone needs a break to dance.

The 'Father of All…' album artwork

In a world where stakes are so high, Green Day’s music chooses to go low. Befitting an album to dance to, the band's M.O. is to rampage through the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Father of All is short and sweet (sometimes sour), at 26 minutes of ten lightning-speed elated tracks, none of which sound like what you'd expect from Green Day. There's glam rock; there are soul and Motown influences: absolutely anything and everything, thrown at a wall. Artwork you could graciously describe as juvenile – featuring a puking unicorn, over the American Idiot colour scheme – seems to establish that the band are choosing this moment, the last they'll have on their major label deal, to cannibalise their darling.

The tracks, when they're good, are simple fun with the staggeringly high-res production values you’d expect from a band this massive. The title track and “Fire, Ready, Aim” are full-on garage band upbeat numbers (“ah-huh, ah-huh, honey”) with enough clap-sequences and throwback energy of The Hives to soundtrack a particularly playful car advert. “Sugar Youth” is ready-made for teenage audiences: it's similar to radio-friendly bops by 5SOS and All Time Low but with the Billie Joe vocal stylings from Green Day's most famous songs. For its sins, the glam rock moments of the album work, including the third single “Oh Yeah!” which features the band’s first sample – Joan Jett’s cover of Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me” (yikes!). For this oversight, Green Day apologised on Twitter calling the prolific paedophilic serial rapist a “total asshole” and said they'd donate all profits to charity.

Most tracks are sharp adrenaline bursts that’ll work nicely as palate cleansers during stadium shows and ideally be the most high-energy moments during the upcoming super tour with other genre giants of the 90s and 00s, Weezer and Fall Out Boy. Days before the album release, it was announced that they’d signed a two year partnership deal with the National Hockey League – it doesn’t seem a stretch to suspect a deliberately plotted link between the two.

But the album is woefully unsuccessful when it treads a tightrope between being nostalgic for the 2000s and boldly repeating its mistakes. On the album release post, Billie Joe said, “Rock has lost its balls. We’re gonna teabag all these mother fuckers.” In the same post he also explicitly outlined the album was “not political.” If it's rock’n’roll without the politics you want, the only subject matter left? The distant memories of teenage life.

Their ode to drunken dancefloors and youthful summertime romance, “Meet Me On The Roof” sounds like album filler to any of the naff bands surrounding Arctic Monkeys during the decade in which they reigned: full of jangling piano, more claps, simpering choruses about good times. Continuing a trip down British chart indie-pop hell, a listener has to contend with “I Was a Teenage Teenager”. It’s easy to imagine yourself dissociating on a sticky Camden pub floor hearing this sandwiched between The Fratellis and The Pigeon Detectives as Billie Joe laments, “My life’s a mess and school is just for suckers” during another round of gang vocals.

Despite these misfires, Green Day are still the Father Of All. They’re one of the only bands of their era actively attempting to engage audiences with new music, and doing so without leaning in to the more generic pop-rock sound that has dominated rock charts for the past five years. The pure premise of Father of All… evades serious criticism when the band weren’t building something to be taken seriously. Obviously this is an album that a band of their capabilities could’ve feasibly have written and recorded in under a month – Green Day know that, their fans do, and neither side of the arrangement cares much. It's sonically fun, thankfully doesn't try to talk about TikTok or Bernie Sanders or polyamory, and is coming from a band who made Dookie, one of the most influential pop punk albums ever and American Idiot whose title track was practically “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for millennials (sorry).

Father of All… doesn’t court mystique or hidden meaning; it barely even demands half an hour of your time. It will be accepted as all of Green Day’s albums will be by their fanbase: willingly, gratefully and with forgiveness.

@hannahrosewens