We’re living in pretty fuckin’ strange times, eh? The post-truth era is so surreal, with the timeline-filling scroll of madness of the Donald Trumps and Boris Johnsons of the world ensuring that is reality stranger than fiction could possibly be. Satire doesn’t seem equipped to hold anyone to account. No wonder, then, that Green Day, masters of using pop to lampoon, have chosen now to step down from the soapbox and onto the dancefloor.
They masterfully turned rage and horror into art with the operatic pop-punk opus of 2004’s Bush-bashing ‘American Idiot’. What can you possibly say when nothing really makes any sense? When protest seems futile? The answer? Just fucking party. Or, to put it another way – rave against the dying of the light. Billie Joe Armstrong recently told NME why he avoided political punk this time around: “It was just too obvious… We live in really dangerous times right now. Everything feels sort of unpredictable. America is really fucked-up and it’s hard to draw any inspiration from it because it just depresses me.”
At 10 tracks and little over 25 minutes long, there’s no time for any existential angst on the goofily titled ‘Father Of All Motherfuckers’ (not a reference to Mr. Trump, Billie Joe Armstrong assured us). “I’m impressed with the presence of none,” the frontman spits on the titular opener, “hurry up ’cause I’m making a fuss – fingers up ’cause there’s no one to trust”. That’s the record’s M.O.
In 2020 Billie Joe Amstrong and co. are rebels without a cause, their 13th album an angry little fucker with its collar popped. ‘Fire, Ready, Aim’ is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it garage rock belter, before ‘Oh Yeah!’ slows things down with a swagger, shrugging from the street corner at a world where “everybody is a star”, but still “we’re running out of hope”.
‘Stab You In The Heart’ takes Chan Romero’s ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’ and douses it in gasoline, while ‘I Was A Teenage Teenager’ is an anthemic ode to glorious misspent, “full of piss and vinegar”. This is a jukebox record if ever there was one. ‘Sugar Youth’ could have soundtracked many a classic ‘50s diner scene, and there’s a feather-light summer-pop bounce to ‘Meet Me On The Roof’.
Green Day still have stadiums in mind, of course. You can see the waving arms and pyro in your mind’s eye when listening to ‘Junkies On A High’, while ‘Graffitia’ is begging to be the first song of the encore. That said, this feels like the most instinctual album that the band have made in 16 years – with the right hallmarks from their past. It’s got the no-fucks hedonism of their side project ‘Foxboro Hot Tubs’, the freewheelin’ All-American ease of his 2018 album with The Longshot, and channelling the rock n’ roll spirit of their sprawling ‘Unos!’ ‘Dos!’ ‘Tre!’ trilogy, but with more focus and all the fat trimmed off.
These songs feel like the bratty little brothers of the likes of ‘Castaway’ and ‘Blood, Sex And Booze’ from 2000’s ‘Warning’, but with more of a snarl and a need for speed. That was a record by a band in transition, walking between the line one decade of pop-punk explosion and another of stadium-filling megastardom. Due its acoustic sensibilities and Elvis Costello influence, few understood it at the time. However, its socio-political voice would and hints of classic rock n’ roll would go on to inform the two sides of the band for the coming two decades.
Green Day have been bold and brazen and free of pretence. Their intent is laid bare when comparing two of the band’s record sleeves: ‘American Idiot’ was a heart like a hand grenade, ‘Father Of All’ is a unicorn puking a rainbow. Don’t try to make sense of it. Just enjoy.