Say what you will about the general car crash of 2020; it’s been a vintage year for cover songs. As artists found themselves pulled from the road and forced into lockdown, so many have been keeping the beast of boredom at bay by sharing their own renditions of classics, from ad-hoc performances on Facebook to full-fledged albums. Hell, Miley Cyrus has been relentlessly belting out metal bangers like that hero who refuses to drop the mic at a karaoke night.
Way back in March, when Zoom quizzes were still considered fun, Green Day’s Billie Armstrong found a way to pass the time and stay connected by covering American soft-rockers Tommy James And The Shondells’ oh-so-fitting ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ (which was made famous by ’80s pop star Tiffany). This kicked off a series he called ‘No Fun Mondays’; he told fans on Twitter that he’d release “a cover song every week until we’re let back out into the world”. Well, he made it up to 14 covers and we’re still all stuck indoors, but now he’s gathered them all together for a vinyl release.
There are some bangers that you’ll know, such as ‘Manic Monday’, which was written by Prince for The Bangles, whose singer Susanna Hoffs lends some warm guitar and vocals to match Armstrong’s silky sentimental side. It’s the perfect soundtrack to lazily whiling away the monotony of quarantine. You’ll know Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids In America,’ too, delivered here with a spiky pop-punk snarl true to the original. Beyond that though, Armstrong recently told NME that he chose songs that “feel rare, or at least rare to other people” – namely young Green Day fans.
Billie Joe does a beautiful job of introducing the late, great Adam Schlesinger’s (of Fountains of Wayne) songwriting to a new generation with a tender tribute to the lovely ‘That Thing You Do’. Elsewhere, songs don’t come much rarer than the Italian language party bop ‘Amico’ by crooner Don Backy. The Armstrong touch also mutates Cali punk rockers The Avengers’ ‘Corpus Christi’ to fit easily alongside Green Day’s misfit-friendly anthems such as ‘Minority’.
Always with an eye on politics, Armstrong naturally finds a way to stick it to the man – see John Lennon‘s ‘Gimme Some Truth’. He spits Lennon’s mantra – “I’ve had enough of watching scenes of schizophrenic, ego-centric, paranoiac, prima-donnas” – with such sincerity that the song could have been written yesterday. And his fiery take on ‘Police On My Back’ (originally by ’60s British R&B group The Equals but made famous by The Clash) captures the tense suspicion of US law enforcement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
From the yearning loneliness of Johnny Thunders’ ‘You Can’t Wrap Your Arms Around A Memory’ to the steely resolve of the closing ‘A New England’ by Billy Bragg, Armstrong paints a pretty spot-on portrait of what it’s like to be alive in 2020, told through the hidden gems of his record collection and delivered with the heart and energy that you’ve always known him for.
Release date: November 27
Record label:Reprise/Warner Records