Caleb M.S. — Staff Writer
The year is 2020. We don’t have flying cars, self-tying Nikes, or hoverboards, but we do have a new Green Day album. Green Day delivered Father of All… (full title not suitable for the Diamond) on February 7 of 2020 to a dubious music critic community.
Contemporary and fringe critics alike were skeptical of a new project from the band, who has delivered lackluster (at best) albums in recent years, and their most recent work held in high regard by consumers and critics dates back to 2004’s American Idiot. Father of All… feels sanitized, carefully curated, stagnant, and unemotional amongst a genre charged with passion, politics, and frenzy.
Green Day may very well be the pop-punk pioneers, but this most recent project swings much farther toward pop than punk. Instrumentals on Father of All… could easily have been borrowed from the worst of The Black Keys or Fall Out Boy, compressed and unzipped three times, ran through effects, then haphazardly tossed under Billy Joe Armstrong’s trademark tinny voice.
Clocking in at just 26 minutes, Father of All… is decidedly un-conceptual and bland. If any through lines can be lifted off of this project, they are the feelings of disconnectedness to pop culture and current events. Each song would be more in place in a GMC Sierra commercial or light-beer ad than on a punk album.
It is worth noting Green Day has just signed a two-year contract with the National Hockey League to provide music for advertisements and jumbotron content, and many of these songs do feel as if they belong blasting in an arena. The title track and “Oh Yeah” both come across as designed to blare for thirty seconds at a time, cut and sliced up across a period in a large stadium. For an album with an expletive in the title, only two songs are marked as explicit on this project, and even content wise the piece is squeaky clean.
A billboard advertising for Father of All… heralds this album as “NO FEATURES, NO SWEEDISH SONGWRITERS, NO TRAP BEATS, 100% PURE UNCUT ROCK.” Does it hold up? There are certainly no features, no writers outside of the band are credited, and there are no trap beats.
But, does it meet the standard of “PURE UNCUT ROCK”? Short answer: no. Yes, the guitar is there, the drums get a nice little run every once and a while, and the band does not shy away from the gratuitous use of organ, synth, and auxiliary percussion. Each song sounds virtually indistinguishable from the one before it, outside of a drum or guitar solo here and there. Remove the vocals and I might think you gave me a mixtape of royalty free samples to use in garage band. Claps and tambourine make an appearance in “Oh Yeah,” “Meet Me on the Roof,” and more to give the listeners the idea of “Hey look I can participate in this,” which is fine if the ending platform at which this album is heard from is crappy speakers at an NHL rink.
The lyrical moments where Father of All…does not feel squeaky clean come across as forced rebellion, like the workplace softie wearing a leather jacket and putting a toothpick in their mouth then pretending to be harder than they are. “I Was a Teenage Teenager” asks “Who has the drugs?” and proclaims, “My life’s a mess and school’s just for suckers.” These lyrics carry a visceral image of balding boomers holding a Bud Light while they flip burgers with all their middle-aged dad friends in the back yard, complaining about modern baseball, and reflecting on the glory days on their high school football team.
Father of All… represents a larger issue in contemporary music. Weezer released The Black Album last year that evoked many of the same sentiments I am communicating in my review of Green Day’s most recent work. Both groups are strikingly similar in market, age, and past relevance. At their height they were influential, mainstream, and not all that bad. Granted, each has had their quality moments and each their commercial flops. However, Weezer may be on better footing after releasing The Teal Album, composed entirely of covers. Weezer is having fun, making music to make music, and holding true to their band’s ideas, which may have shifted in their twenty-five years of activity, but who doesn’t change over the quarter of a century?
Green Day, on the other hand, has gone the way of Fall Out Boy or Panic! at the Disco, and gave into contemporary pressures. If the quality and shifting sound of their music has not alluded toward their selling-out, the quite literal selling out in their contract with the NHL makes it all too obvious. Green Day will continue to follow their own advice given in the second to last song on the album: “Take the Money and Crawl.”
Will Listen to Again:
Father of All…
Take the Money and Crawl
Burn it Down:
Literally everything else.