On Feb. 7, punk rock band Green Day released their 15th album “Father of All Motherfuckers.” The album release complements recent albums from fellow rock bands Fall Out Boy and Weezer, both of which Green Day will be joining this summer in their international Hella Mega Tour.
The Berkeley-based band rose to fame in 1994 with their hit album “Dookie.” They provided the anthem against the Bush administration with their 2004 “American Idiot.” Throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, Green Day defined the punk rock movement of the era with tales of adolescent anxiety and lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s bold hair colors.
I love the Green Day of the ‘90s and early 2000s. But I also love Blink-182 and Third Eye Blind’s music hailing from the same era, and their newest albums were remarkably disappointing. Bands need to change their sound to adapt to an ever-evolving industry and maturing fanbase; unfortunately, this change often means sacrificing the character that attracted many original fans. When I heard Green Day was releasing an album in 2020, I was excited, but worried that they too would resort to modern pop styles and production techniques to sell a record.
I was pleasantly surprised.
“Father of All Motherfuckers” uniquely blends elements of punk rock, contemporary rock, rock ‘n’ roll and pop. It displays a distinct contrast from Green Day’s whimsically aggressive ‘90s hits, but is captivating nonetheless. On this album, the band reveals how musical innovation means both crossing genre lines and transcending time and regional boundaries.
When first hearing the seemingly artificial voices and excessive hand-clapping on opening tracks “Father of All…” and “Fire, Ready, Aim,” I immediately assumed hope was lost for the revival of punk rock bands. Here we go again, I thought. Another ‘90s band trying to make a comeback, another band failing to find a new sound and failing to replicate their signature sound.
Yet even with surface-level elements of modern pop, Green Day doesn’t neglect the necessity of lyrics infused with rebellious energy — the call to “stick a hammer in your mouth and knock your teeth to the ground” emphasizes the art of being unapologetically violent and loud and dangerous and beautiful.
“I Was a Teenage Teenager,” as the name implies, epitomizes the essence of punk. The undeniable angst of being “filled with piss and vinegar” parallels the attitude of the band’s “Dookie” era — hating school, hating life, but loving music, as music can release and transform hate into a secure space for the insecure.
In an interview with Playboy Germany, drummer Tré Cool reflected on the band’s teenage years: “I was a frustrated, searching, sometimes happy teenager. The three of us were the outsiders, the freaks, not the least bit crazy. And no matter how old you are: this teenage brain never completely regresses.”
Green Day combines these angsty themes with elements of rock of the past. “Stab You in the Heart,” for example, sounds like Little Richard gone punk. The driving melody and beat reminiscent of ‘50s rock meets the electricity and thirst for revenge of pop-punk music. “Meet Me on the Roof” also contains the rhythm and admiration found in a ‘60s Motown ballad.
The overlap of time and genre continues in “Graffitia,” which uses characteristics of ‘80s pop (such as a heavy synthesizer) and subtly discusses struggles of factory workers and victims of police brutality. “Are we the last forgotten?” the band asks, recognizing the importance of sharing unheard, overlooked stories. Subtle political messages are also found in “Oh Yeah!,” with its reference to school shootings and “bulletproof backpacks.” This anti-establishment theme is just as intentional as the iconic “American Idiot,” if not always as direct or forceful.
Green Day finds inspiration in modern alternative bands in “Sugar Youth,” its fast pace and sensuous intensity similar to Britpop bands like the Arctic Monkeys. The calming flow of “Junkies on a High,” however, may be more comparable to the contemporary sound of Imagine Dragons or Coldplay. Although there are notable similarities to these bands, the shift to a more modern sound doesn’t feel forced. Green Day has managed to blend deceptively opposing elements of music — past and present, American and British — into an album that will carry punk rock into the new decade.
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They’re not as Californian as on “Dookie” or as angsty as “American Idiot,” but they’re still just as careless and cynical and powerful. They’re still embracing the rebellion of punk, and they’re keeping it alive.