Perhaps the biggest energetic shift that you’ll notice within the final arrangement of Green Day’s new album is how short, sharp and to-the-point everything is. Only one song of 10 makes it past three-and-a-half minutes, while Tré points out that you could listen to the whole thing on your way to work. Billie Joe has previously shrugged off this newfound brevity as a growing dislike of lengthy songs, while there are musings from the group today about modern attention spans in a digital age. But perhaps a more straightforward answer comes when the band suggest they simply weren’t looking for big, embellished arrangements this time out.
“If anything, we didn’t realise it was doing that as much as it was,” says Mike. “It was more along the lines of the Dookie and Insomniac era of writing, where you don’t have to repeat the chorus again to get a third verse.”
Tré explains that when he received a final test pressing of the record he played it on his turntable at home, and then, simply by chance, he followed it up with 1964’s Meet The Beatles!. He was struck by the similarities between the two records in terms of their spirit.
“Man, we weren’t even thinking about that record,” he says, “but that’s a really short, concise record, with to-the-point songs. Like, the song I Want To Hold Your Hand doesn’t go on and on, y’know? He wants to tell you something, he wants you to understand, and then, boom, there you go: he wants to hold your hand. Next song. It gets into it, does its thing, and it moves on. That’s kind of what we’re doing on this record.”
The distinct, choppy and feel-good nature of the songs also became the perfect foil for Billie Joe to contrast against the growing angst and unease that he was unearthing in his lyric writing. “That’s the part that gives it the joyous feeling about the record,” he says. “But then the inside of the record can be very dark.”
The frontman says that a lot of his lyrics come to him at night, when he can feel alone. “It definitely contributes to my insomnia, that’s for sure,” he says. Unusually, song names would often turn up in his head before the songs. He gives the example of I Was A Teenage Teenager, a reference to titles like those of 1957 monster movie I Was A Teenage Werewolf or Misfits’ Teenagers From Mars, which became the perfect embodiment of his perceived boring youth. But he also found his thoughts coming back to a consistent theme, one that taps into the restlessness of a western world dominated by impeachment, Brexit and climate change: how do you lift your spirits in a time of political chaos and polarisation?
“A lot of the songs [are about] dangerous living,” he says. “Waking up, feeling paranoid about where life is going to end up, where the country’s going to end up, but finding escapism through getting drunk and bingeing on drugs or something.”