Green Day: Father of All Motherfuckers (Reprise) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, February 21st, 2020  

Green Day

Father of All Motherfuckers

Reprise

Feb 10, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Billie Joe Armstrong is 47 years old. When he turned 18, George H. W. Bush was the president, the Internet was not widely used, and the number one song in the U.S. was "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" by Michael Bolton. This is important because Green Day strives desperately on Father of All Motherfuckers (also simply known as Father of All...) to make you forget that fact. Armstrong was fairly mocked last year for referring to the band's then-unheard 13th album as "The New! Soul, Motown, glam and manic anthemic" but upon hearing Father of All..., it seems he got off lightly. Green Day's new rock revolution sounds suspiciously similar to the "new rock revolution" of the early 2000s.

After producing one of the defining protest records of the Bush presidency, Green Day might have been expected to produce a similar polemic against the Trump administration. Perhaps wisely, the band has decided against that idea in favor of a proudly apolitical album. Father of All... is a rock record built for indie discos that disappointingly feels like a collection of advertising jingles primed for sports montages. Take, for example, the album's second single "Fire, Ready, Aim"-a song ostensibly about unthinking "outrage culture" that doubles neatly as the opening theme song for the National Hockey League. In 2020, nothing screams the spirit of rock & roll like a "cross-platform marketing and promotional partnership."

It is telling that the band's corporate partnership extends beyond that one single. Multiple songs from Father of All... are set to be featured in game highlights shows and on arena jumbotrons throughout the 2019-20 hockey season. Luckily for the NHL, Green Day have kindly made an album of such impressively inoffensive retro-rock that one has to wonder which came first, the album or the partnership? As the band's shortest record yet at 26 minutes, there is a sense of contractual obligation to these 10 songs.

Armstrong's pitch of "dangerous songs for dangerous kids" upon announcing the record jars aggressively with its bland styling. Many of the heavier moments on Father of All... sound like garage rock revivalists The Hives, albeit scrubbed clean of any chaos or menace. The album's softer moments are no better-"Meet Me on the Roof" mimics, perhaps inadvertently, the happy-go-lucky indie pop of Britain's The Hoosiers, while the closer ("Graffitia") shoots unsuccessfully for the unifying pop rock of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. Although Father of All... can be entertaining in brief moments, it is consistently uninspired.

However, the real sins of this record are found in its lyrics, which attempt to invoke youthful rebellion but are too vague and ridden with clichés to be credible. "I Was a Teenage Teenager" Armstrong insists on the album's fifth song-"Was" being the key word. Later, on the otherwise surprisingly robust "Sugar Youth," the middle-aged father of two makes an ill-advised stab at adolescent cosplay, when he complains that he is "like a high school loser that will never, ever, ever, ever fuck the prom queen."

The problem is not just that Green Day's attempt to recapture teenage abandon is wholly unbelievable, but also that every song on Father of All... fails to delve any deeper than the absolute surface of its subject matter. Armstrong said in a recent interview with USA Today that "Graffitia" is a song about "small towns in the Rust Belt that lose their identity because factories and things like that are becoming obsolete" and "about young black men being shot by cops in the streets," as if those two things can be lumped together without any further explanation. The result is Mad Libs for America's social ills, devoid of context and emotional weight. "Graffitia" would make as much sense if it was about Flint's water crisis and crippling levels of student debt, or the Trump administration's gutting of environmental regulations and voter suppression in Georgia. That is to simply say that the song would remain shallow and insubstantial.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a middle-aged band attempting to reconnect with its youth or kicking back and producing a silly escapist record. Rock has always had a place for that and at the very least Green Day's heart seems to be in the right place. But Father of All... is fundamentally toothless and lacking in wit, originality, and invention. Armstrong decries "fakes" across this album without once acknowledging the irony that these songs represent exactly the sort of corporate rock he is supposedly standing against. Of course, Green Day remains a competent band to the point that this slickly produced record is not an all-out disaster. But it is certainly not worth remembering. (www.greenday.com)

Author rating: 4/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10



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