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We Need to Talk About Green Day

The 2011 film We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of the most underrated movies of the 2010’s. Starring a transcendent Tilda Swinton as the mother of a high school mass murderer, We Need To Talk About Kevin examines the life of the titular killer from birth, with a pronounced focus on the dynamic of his immediate family. Watching the post-American Idiot career of Green Day has looked a lot like what I imagine Swinton’s character saw in that movie: 16-odd years of warning sign after increasingly worrying warning sign ultimately culminating in utter calamity, except instead of killing their classmates, Green Day have brutally slain their own meager remaining reputation, and perhaps put the decisive final nail in the coffin of the rotting carcass that used to be called “rock n’ roll”. 

It’s hard to know where to begin with Father of All…, the latest from the pop punk legends and Rock N’ Roll Hall of Famers. The album is bad, which almost feels like it goes without saying following the completely trite and forgettable Revolution Radio a few years ago, but in a way Father of All… feels like something more than just your run of the mill throwaway release from an over the hill rock band. The only way to break this album down effectively is by starting not with any of its actual contents, but with the way in which Green Day chose to promote this record leading up to its release. We’ll start with the first and most immediate part of any album’s release cycle: its title. The full and proper unedited name of Green Day’s 13th full-length studio album is Father of All Motherfuckers, displaying all the couth and cleverness of a prepubescent middle schooler hurling unwittingly bigoted insults on a suburban playground.

Just in case we didn’t get the message that Green Day was back, and ready to say swear words, they proceeded to make a live appearance at the NHL All-Star Game. There, Billie Joe Armstrong, looking every one of his 47 years, proceeded to drop several F bombs on live TV, further establishing the band’s rock star bona fides leading up to the record’s release. And then, of course, the now infamous billboard. “NO FEATURES. NO SWEDISH SONGWRITERS. NO TRAP BEATS. 100% PURE UNCUT ROCK.” An aggressive look to be sure, only underscored further by the lines of cocaine underscoring the words. As if all this weren’t enough, Billie Joe took to social media himself, saying that “Rock has lost its balls. We’re gonna teabag all these mother fuckers. The baddest rock band on the planet that gives a shit.” These guys are no strangers to this industry; they talk a mean game.

Which brings us to the album itself. Fronted by some requisitely garish and tacky album art, it quickly becomes clear that every song on this album sounds like it was written for a Dave and Buster’s commercial. What I want to say is that Green Day talked like they were going to release the next Motorhead album and then dropped a record that goes about as hard as The Knack, but nothing on this album approaches the raw energy or libido of “My Sharona”. When one of the first contemporary comparisons that comes to mind for your new record is Walk The Moon, you’re not exactly living up to the promise of “100% PURE UNCUT ROCK”. There’s nothing particularly sonically wrong with this record; musically you could describe it as inoffensive, but it’s inoffensive to the point of putridity. It’s genuinely disheartening to see a once-great institution of punk rock reduced to something so bland, unmemorable, stale, and corporate.

How one of music’s leading politically dissident voices of the Bush era has fallen to such nonessential lows in an ever-increasingly fraught world is anyone’s guess. It’s easy to take the cynical view; the members of Green Day are now middle-aged, and quite wealthy. But not only does Green Day feel irrevocably washed up and out of touch, they also seem to stand in stark ideological opposition to those parts of the musical world that could be deemed “fresh” or “interesting”. They have become rock’s Grandpa Simpson yelling at the clouds, and their music is about as toothless. Never let it be forgotten that in the dawn of the 2020’s, in the face of a tidal wave of change, artistic evolution, and seemingly more possible ways forward than ever before, Green Day simply chose to throw up their middle fingers to the sky, and drowned. Some might call that “rock n’ roll”, but I’d just call it a waste of everybody’s time.

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