Album Review: Green Day – Father Of All…
Green Day had one idea for what to do next: “Let’s make a mess.” These were the four words uttered by Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool as they stepped into their rehearsal room to begin work on this, the follow-up to 2016’s Revolution Radio. It was a bold mind-set, all things considered. Not only was that album labelled a musical return to form after the sprawling triple-whammy of ¡UNO!, ¡DOS!, ¡TRE!, it was also a colossal success, combining Green Day’s now-signature formula of heartfelt, radio-ready punk rock bangers with a post-American Idiot worldview. It would have been a blueprint worth repeating on Father Of All…. Instead, the Oakland trio have scrapped all that in favour of something altogether more playful, mischievous, and – indeed – messy.
You’ll already have sensed this if you’ve heard the lead single and title-track, of course. From the excessive handclaps and Billie Joe’s Prince-inspired falsettos, it’s a sign of what’s to come as it opens up the most surprising and potentially divisive Green Day album ever. It’s the shortest release of their career to date, clocking in at just 26 minutes, but it also finds them taking on and dishing out more musical ideas and genres than ever before. On paper, it kind of sounds like a disaster. On record, though, Green Day have never relished a challenge more.
Most crucially of all, Father Of All… is full of attitude. Billie Joe has cited hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar as an inspiration this time around, the frontman wanting to emulate the HUMBLE. singer’s raw, real approach to storytelling. And as he confesses, ‘I wanna drink all the poison in the water / I wanna choke like a dog that’s on a collar,’ on Sugar Youth and yelps a rather, er, ballsy, ‘You can take a walk or you can suck my cock,’ on Take The Money And Crawl, it’s clear he’s holding nothing back here. More often than not, his lyrics adopt a dark, autobiographical viewpoint, harking back to the days of 1994 breakthrough LP Dookie and its hard-and-fast 1995 follow-up, Insomniac. In fact, other than the album’s suggestive title, there’s nothing overtly political to be found across these 10 tracks, as the frontman instead focusses on feeling out of control within his own body, as well as observing the chaos of life around him (“I draw no inspiration from the President of the United States,” Billie Joe told Kerrang! last year. “Trump gives me diarrhoea, you know?”).
And it’s when Green Day sound the most unhinged that they’re at their best. The fast-paced chorus of the aforementioned Sugar Youth and the explosive Stab You In The Heart are instant highlights, boasting an intoxicating and inescapable energy amongst the riffs. But this is by no means straightforward rock’n’roll, as the band dabble in soul and Motown (Stab You In The Heart) and glam (Oh Yeah!), amongst the usual garage-rock and punk (Fire, Ready, Aim). There are vintage Billie Joe melodies littered throughout, with the sweet Meet Me On The Roof and closing track Graffitia showcasing this always effortless, almost off-the-cuff knack for his craft.
In many ways, Green Day have thrown out the rulebook on a sound they’ve spent more than three decades perfecting. They’ve often proven themselves to be an unpredictable bunch by nature (a fact that’s not quite as celebrated as it should be), and Father Of All… is just another sign of a band who have always done things their way refusing to do what’s expected of them. And it’s a hella mega good time from start to finish.
Green Day’s BBC broadcasts from Maida Vale Studios between 1994 and 2001 are being mastered and made available for the first time later this year!
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