By Gillian G. Gaar
FATHER OF ALL MOTHER****ERS
Reprise (CD, LP)
After two rock operas, released in 2004 and 2009, and a trilogy of albums released over the span of four months in 2012, Green Day got back to basics. Revolution Radio (2016) was scaled back to just under 45 minutes, while the newly released Father of All Mother****ers gets the job done even quicker — in just 26:16, to be exact. It’s a bit of a disappointment, because the band’s firing on all pistons on this release. But it does mean you can listen to the album twice in an hour.
The title track has lead singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, singing in a giddy falsetto (with a video inspired by the opening sequence of Elvis Presley’s 1968 “Comeback” TV special) about the paranoia of life today. “There’s a riot living inside of us,” he warns, though the character in this song seems happy enough to fiddle while Rome burns. Which is basically the theme of the album. “Ain’t it funny how we’re running out hope?” Armstrong mourns in “Oh Yeah!,” the arena-rock samples from Joan Jett’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” notwithstanding. “I’m taking drowning lessons … And the worst is yet to come,” is the downhearted sentiment in “Meet Me on the Roof.”
But all the lyrics are welded to Green Day’s trademark, upbeat, poppy punk/punky pop. The world outside your front door might be a downer, but hey, turn up the music; it’s got a beat and you can dance to it. You can’t call it escapist; songs like the profane “Take the Money and Crawl” are far too bitter for that. Yet there is a lack of focus. Ambiguous as the storylines of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown may have been, they still came to what felt like a conclusion. The songs on Father of All… could’ve fit on either of those two collections, but here they feel something like adjuncts, never coalescing into a whole.
Part of that is likely due to the album’s brevity. And the bright beat means that the songs are sure to go down well on tour. And since it’s clear that Green Day still has something to say, maybe next time they’ll take more time to say it.