Thirty years ago this April, a manic little trio crawled out from the Berkeley, California punk scene to release its debut LP: an emphatic set of three-chord ragers called 39/Smooth that, while exciting, certainly did not portend one of the most successful careers in rock history.
But after six Platinum-certified albums, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and a laundry list of enduring pop-punk and arena-rock smashes, Green Day remains one of the genre’s biggest names — and a band with nothing left to prove.
Such artistic latitude seems to be the driving force behind the band’s new album, Father of All Motherf–kers, a fast-and-loose party record that shirks much of the traditional Green Day framework for a sound that merges speedy punk with ‘50s and ‘60s pop, Motown and glam-rock. The album out Friday, Feb. 7 is also Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool’s shortest LP ever: just 26 minutes across 10 tracks.
As the band prepares to roll out a few of these new tunes on the road for its global “Hella Mega” stadium tour later this year alongside Weezer and Fall Out Boy, let’s dive in and rank all 10 of these bad boys.
10. “I Was a Teenage Teenager”
At three minutes, 45 seconds, “Teenager” is the longest track on the album, yet it never really goes anywhere. The throwback guitar chug and mid-tempo chorus are catchy, sure, as the band reflects on its “piss and vinegar” years, like those spent at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley. But the whole “outsiders who hated school” story is so overworked — save it for the autobiography!
9. “Sugar Youth”
If you were wondering if there were any songs on Father that sounded like textbook Green Day, here you go: “Sugar Youth” is down-the-line speedy punk number with a familiar tale: a guy who won’t “ever, ever, ever f–k the prom queen,” but who doesn’t “wanna be a Romeo” anyway. If you don’t like me, I don’t like you! Simple enough and time-tested. Jam on!
Green Day takes a page out of Bruce Springsteen’s book on the mid-tempo album closer, which provides some political commentary on past Rust Belt factory closings and police brutality: “ Are we the last forgotten? Are we the long lost love?” Armstrong wonders through a driving chant. It’s a poignant track but it fails to stand apart from the rest of the record, melodically speaking.
7. “Take the Money and Crawl”
Steve Miller sang “take the money and run.” Green Day suggests you simply crawl while they hammer away on this Motown-inspired chest-pounder. The lyrics are bold — “Illegal tender, going on a bender, cold-blooded killers, of all motherf–kers” — as the band now entering its fourth decade reminds us all how they’re still cooler than us. Probably true.
6. “Junkies on a High”
“Rock ‘n’ roll tragedy, I think the next one could be me,” Armstrong sings on this slinky West Coast tune, and it’s perhaps the most telling line on the whole record: but is the “tragedy” a nod to all the bands that have foregone traditional rock sounds, or more literally a note on all the musicians who die young? Either way, this loose cut feels like 47-year-old Billie Joe sitting on a porch, passing a joint with Mike and Tre as they watch the world self-destruct around them.
5. “Meet Me on the Roof”
“Meet Me” is a jangly, ‘60s-pop revival tune painting the age-old narrative of an underdog guy trying to get the object of his affection to leave the party with him and, well, join him on the roof. “How high is your low gonna go, girl,” Armstrong sings over a melody that with a little polish — and erasure of the “hanging with the Cholos” lyric — could pass for early Beatles.
4. “Fire, Ready, Aim”
“Fire” is a big, crunch-and-punch tune released ahead of the album to drum up excitement, but did the guys really need to place this cut directly after “Father of All …,” which jams in the same key and at similar tempo? At less than two minutes, this plays more like a raucous interlude or outro than a stand-alone single. Are Green Day trolling us, or have they just reached the point in their colossally successful career where they don’t care what we think? A little of both, most likely.
3. “Oh Yeah!”
The album’s most anthemic song, which bemoans celebrity culture and will almost certainly receive its fittingly oversized treatment on stage this summer, samples Joan Jett’s version of “Do You Wanna Touch Me” — a song originally penned by glam-rocker Gary Glitter and Mike Leander. Acknowledging Glitter, who in 2015 was convicted of rape and other assault charges, as a “total a–hole,” Green Day has committed to donate royalties from the song to the International Justice Mission and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
2. “Father of All…”
The grooving title track and album opener sets an immediate tone: for hell or high water, Father does not replicate 2016’s pop-punk-par-for-course Revolution Radio, instead launching into the retro-tinged garage punk more closely associated with the band’s fleeting side project Foxboro Hot Tubs. The mix — particularly where Armstrong’s vocal sits, through a filter and behind the mega-guitar riff — is a purposeful swerve away from typical Green Day production, but it’s a fun, pissed-off track that should play well on the upcoming tour.
1. “Stab You in the Heart”
Now we’re talking! “Stab” rollicks like a punk-rock “Grease Lightning” or amped-up Elvis Presley banger, treading all the way back to the ‘50s with its bluesy riff and how about that little “you know it ain’t right” line tacked on the end of the hook, which feels like a tribute to the Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride.” The bold guitar solo here seriously kicks out the jams, too — if Green Day sought to make a true retro party album (as it appears they did), this track is by far the most effective.