Watching Green Day fumble their way through their late period of pop culture ‘relevance’ has been the exact combination of entertaining and embarrassing that can only come from a band who should know far, far better than they let on. At least to set the scene, wanting to take the brand of punk that they arguably revolutionised and blow it up to almost unrecognisable proportions is an admirable goal, particularly in how ingrained American Idiot and (albeit to a lesser extent) 21st Century Breakdown are in the entire canon of music post-millennium, but the fact that Green Day have seemingly taken that clout as carte blanche to freewheel and spew out whatever comes to mind has been evident of a band slamming into a brick wall and, rather than reevaluating their decisions, attempting to plough through with their bare hands. The ever-reviled trio of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! have already been plenty lambasted for a triple album release strategy with enough quality material to fill maybe one, but then there’s Revolution Radio, an album that wore its intentions of course correction like a badge of honour but has become a faint footnote in Green Day’s legacy more and more with each passing day. It’s beginning to feel like Green Day really have no clue about where to go next, doubly so when considering the most notable features of the Father Of All… campaign so far have been Billie Joe Armstrong’s accompanying spate of Twitter word-vomit that only compounds that idea further, and a crop of lead singles that rank among the most weary and uninspired of Green Day’s material to date.
And that’s certainly true of Father Of All… as a whole, but at the same time, it’s also a fascinating examination into what a band of millionaires with all the creative means and resources in the world at their disposal believe passes off as suitable music to release. For an album that’s supposed to be the next breath of life into rock music (that’s still needed as little as ever), it doesn’t feel like Green Day have even tried with this one, not only in its paltry length to already drastically limit what they’re capable of right from the start, but in a musical palette that’s universally dated and limps by with the urgency of a band who don’t believe a single word they’re saying. The regression is blaring from front to back, even more so than previously, as Green Day channel boomer-rock thought processes in music composition and wind up with a predictably unimaginative, myopic album that’s far from profound or engaging, never mind the game-changer they’ve somehow anticipated this to be.
It’s not even difficult to see how that’s become such a depressing reality on this album either, when the primary sonic touchstones are ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, ‘70s glam-rock and 2000s garage-rock, three styles that haven’t aged well whatsoever and, when brought together, have less than no business being crowbarred into a modern context in the way that Green Day have attempted here. It almost always feels like a fluke when things do come together like on the classic pop sway of Meet Me On The Roof and hot-under-the-collar lift of Tutti Frutti’s riff on Stab You In The Heart, such is the lack of clear creative synthesis that’s on display. Father Of All… is such a deeply stagnant album, and when that’s paired with a runtime clocking in at just 26 minutes, the concentration of sheer bad ideas makes it difficult to simply overlook. Both Oh Yeah! and Junkies On A High are lobotomised pop-rock plodders with barely even a hint of forward motion between then, and even if Fire, Ready, Aim and Sugar Youth have a recognisable sparkle poking through, having it doused in Father Of All…’s utterly botched production job tosses what could’ve been a pair of standout moments directly aside.
And it’s worth putting a more intense focus on that production too, as it seems to be what Green Day themselves have put the most emphasis on when it comes to fulfilling whatever spurious vision they had with this album. Apparently this is what daring, dangerous rock music sounds like, with outdated garage-rock guitars that are scratched and scuzzed-out for no artistic reason other than ‘the more distorted, the better’, drums that are compressed into fuzzy slaps that only make the likes of the title track and Junkies On A High sound even more cluttered, and vocals that are possibly some of the worst that Green Day have ever put to record. The falsetto that plagues the best part of the title track is bad enough, but to have Armstrong placed at the front at a fraction of the capacity he’s capable of and proceeding to drench him in filters and filmy production effects on Sugar Youth and Take The Money And Crawl sounds entirely awkward and in-keeping with the notion that Green Day just don’t care anymore.
And yet, they’ll be damned if they can’t hammer that point into the dirt as much as they can, and drawing attention to it as much as they do is what sends Father Of All… hurtling into aggressively incompetent territory. As much as Green Day want to be the paragons of rock ‘n’ roll and bring back the fire and the progressive energy, what is it about an album that back-peddles so rapidly on that exact notion that does that? The intention makes itself known, coming out of the gate with the big, broad ‘state of things’ address on the title track and briefly touching on subjects of gun violence on Oh Yeah! and racism and gentrification on Graffitia, but that’s it. Father Of All… is far more content with pretending it’s doing good rather than actually committing to it, and subsequently having its creators pat themselves on the back for at least having the thought; after all, what’s more punk than tailoring the lyrics of Fire, Ready, Aim for an NHL sponsorship, or changing the title of Oh Yeah! from Bulletproof Backpack to not jeopardise any radio play? And it’s the boring, basic way that Green Day choose to plug the gaps that makes this such a pain to listen to, from the blatant stabs at pandering to a younger crowd on I Was A Teenage Teenager to trying their hand at an asinine weed anthem on Junkies On A High, because at least that’s popular. It’s easy to tell that they don’t care, and when they’re making that as obvious as possible, why, as an audience is it worth caring either?
Now some will undoubtedly jump to the defence of Father Of All… and cite the narrative of it being a ‘troll album’ that’s popped up from somewhere, but even if that was the case and Green Day were actively looking to make this bad, it would’ve been far more efficient and beneficial to just make a good album and not waste all that time. Then again, this isn’t the sort of album that feels like it had much time put into it, rather more akin to something the band knocked out on a whim one afternoon as a means of burning themselves out of a contract they don’t want. That certainly feels like the case; the effort doesn’t seem present, nor does any nuance or self-awareness of how this comes across as a bunch of out-of-touch old men trying to relive their glory days and falling on their faces almost immediately. Whatever the circumstances of its creation were, Father Of All… just feels like a mistake, acting as another black mark on a career that’s been amassing them at a rather alarming rate lately, and nudging Green Day further into the coterie of punk and pop-rock’s old guard that just don’t know when to give up and stay down.
For fans of: Jet, The Vines, Foxboro Hot Tubs
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Father Of All…’ by Green Day is out now on Reprise Records.