When they first jumped onto the scene in the early 90’s, and even late 80’s, Green Day was a refreshing sound in the realm of punk. So refreshing that, following their release of Dookie (1994), they created a wave of new pop-punk artists. Even household names like Blink-182 followed in their footsteps, releasing their debut studio album, Cheshire Cat (1995), exactly one year and fifteen days after Dookie. After this immediate success, they didn’t let up, with follow-ups in Insomniac (1995), and Nimrod (1997). Both continued a similar, very pop-friendly punk sound, but each with a few more flexible, “different” tracks as well. The biggest example of this, to me, is “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” on Nimrod.
After a final exploration of their original sound, Warning: (2000), they leapt into the arms of rock opera, with their second-largest album, American Idiot (2004). They stayed in this bubble for almost six years, releasing an album many aren’t crazy about, but I find quite enjoyable, 21st Century Breakdown (2009). However, since the end of 2009, they haven’t really found another sound worth exploring, releasing their trio of albums, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! (2012), followed by Revolution Radio (2016), and now Father of All… (2020). While Revolution Radio was probably the most respectable of these, it was a decent, kind of stale rock record, that was nowhere near what it could’ve been. So coming into this record, I don’t think many people have expected much of the group, and this certainly includes me. If you haven’t read my review on their pre-released single(s), I wasn’t the biggest fan. Everything sounded like unnecessary rehashes of early-mid 2000’s rock. And, aside from some catchy riffs and tight drums, there wasn’t anything pleasing, skillful, or original going on. Sadly, the trend continues.
Read my review on their single “Father of All…” here.
Father of All… takes the “rough” and “edgy” brand of early 2000’s garage rock, and mixes it with 80’s arena rock, to create something that’s high energy, but not high anything else. All of this becomes clear right out of the gate, with the title track. Behind a veil of distorted bass and fuzzy, falsetto vocals, the band sounds like they’re in an old, static-filled broadcast. And the addition of a clap-track just throws it into the same genre of music you’d hear blasted through a stadium at a basketball game. It’s clear they’re doing their best to make an exciting brand of rock, and I’ll give it to them that, if you don’t pay attention, or realize it’s Green Day, it’d make a pretty hype-filled, 2003 rock jam. But in the context of 2020, and the knowledge that this is Green Day, it is incredibly disappointing and underwhelming.
Up next is “Fire, Ready, Aim,” which is, quite frankly, the same exact track when speaking in generic terms. Once again, we get what sounds like a filtered version of Billie’s voice, only I think this time it’s due to the heavy focus on guitar and drums, being layered over it. The clap-track is there as well, this time coming in at the very start, making it even more noticeable, and frustrating. The consistent “uh huh” from Billie is now replaced with some background “aaaahs.” It sounds much more high-tempo, and aggressive, which are the main distinguishing factors, but still falls into many of the same potholes, and is still unrecognizable as Green Day. In several ways, I find it less interesting than “Father of All…” due to the awful simplicity of the lyrics, but I could see that fact making it more “punk,” and therefore more enjoyable.
The third song, but the first lack of clap-track! Kind of. Despite no formal clapping in “Oh Yeah!,” they replace this with a strong emphasis on every 2 and 4 beat. First with a snare, and then with a tambourine during the chorus, they make sure to keep the consistent cliches of arena rock there, even if they’re not technically there. The chorus is honestly so meta it’s kind of hilarious. Named “Oh Yeah!” for a reason, its chorus is, quite literally just, “Oh yeah!” Combined with a pretty slow pace, it attempts to make itself grandiose, putting in their own crowd chants ahead of time to make it more infectious. But in the end, that just makes it sound like they’re trying too hard.
Image from the “Oh Yeah!” music video that you can find here.
The return of the clap-track. So this album goes. Rather than stick to the stadiums they have so far, “Meet Me on the Roof” goes for the party, talking of the dance floor as much as “Uma Thurman” does. And that’s mostly what I get from it. This is much less like the old Jet, and more like the new Fall Out Boy. While Billie doesn’t necessarily try a Pete Wentz impression (thank God), its upbeat personality gives it the bright mood that many of these old pop-punk groups are going for these days. Sadly, none of those groups are particularly good anymore.
Slowing things down once again, “I Was a Teenage Teenager” (yes, that’s the name) hides behind a simplistic but admittedly catchy bass riff. And it doesn’t have a clap-track! This is one of the more purely-fun jams on here, but once you start to analyze it, it doesn’t hold up. Shouting of the wild, drug-filled past, Billie does his best to create an anthem for all of his misfits and self-labeled degenerates, describing himself as “alien visitor.” This lyric, and the song as a whole is pretty cringeworthy, because it’s trying too hard to make you feel this way. The thing is, they don’t have to try to do this. I can probably count at least ten Green Day songs that act as this, with their own personality, whereas this is a pretty clear, cheap attempt instead.
“Stab You in the Heart” is a more unique track in the context of this record, but not necessarily in the context of music as a whole. The clap-track comes back, but this time in a 50’s rockabilly jam. The ascending and descending guitar chords during the chorus, and very rock-and-roll guitar tone, make you want to twist your hips like you’re listening to Elvis. Even the line “bloody bloody heart” has me hearing “achy breaky heart” sometimes. The next track, “Sugar Youth,” is probably the most Green Day-sounding, with his vocal patterns and high energy guitar riffs sounding a lot like something out of Revolution Radio. It’s not my favorite track ever, but it’s not cringeworthy, and it’s not too high-effort either. The only things overtly bad about it are the really annoying background vocal/questions like “Oh what you drinking?” Background vocals aren’t inherently bad, but the whininess is kind of off-putting.
The last three tracks are more of the same. “Junkies on a High” is very similar to “Oh Yeah!” and “I Was a Teenage Teenager” in its tempo, and heavy focus on the bass. “Take the Money and Crawl” is another example of high-voltage rock; the worst part being Billie’s perfect syncing of his voice to the guitar tones. I don’t know which is mimicking which, but that trend hasn’t been seen since 2004. “Graffitia” is probably the hardest to define sonicly. The guitar tones and vocals remind me of a catchy 80’s pop-rock song, but there are occasional hints of the old rock-opera Green Day. There are a few breaks where everything pulls away, and they add in some bright bells/chimes, reminding me of some of their intersong transitions from American Idiot. But nothing about it is particularly noteworthy.
As a whole, Father of All… is a predictable rock record, that takes everything rock did between 1980 and 2010, and presses it together. Nothing about this record is off-the-charts bad (besides maybe the seven clap-tracks out of ten songs), like some of their contemporaries’ releases (Blink 182’s NINE (2019)). There are a few awful tracks and awful lines, but the main issue it suffers from is its stale sound. Nothing on this is new, but nothing on this is problematic. It’s just a poor attempt at catchy, energetic music. I paint it as a horrible record, and that’s how it feels, knowing it’s Green Day. But if I were to hear it from an unknown source, I’d just say it’s boring. I’m thinking a 3/10 on this one.
Favorite Track(s): N/A
Least Favorite Track(s): “Oh Yeah!,” “Graffitia,” “Meet Me on the Roof”