REVIEW: Green Day – “Father of All…”

foamfI’ve been a fan of Green Day since 2006. I was 11 and they were one of my first exposures to mainstream, contemporary rock music. To say they had a major impact on my taste in music would be just as big an understatement as saying that musical theatre had a major impact on my taste in music. Green Day was a major deal to me all throughout my youth. Every new album was something to get unbearably excited over. This changed some in the wake of the release of the “Trilogy” – ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tre!. Like many, I wasn’t a big fan of this album and my ongoing obsession with Green Day never quite recovered. When 2016’s Revolution Radio came out, I was certainly relatively excited and, on the whole, I did enjoy it – but very little of it has stuck with me. Still, my first music love will always be Green Day and there will never be an album release that I won’t look forward to. Which brings us to 2020’s Father of All…, an album that I initially was eagerly anticipating and slowly stopped anticipating as time went on and more songs were released. Now that it’s out, was the five-month wait between its initial announcement and its long-awaited release worth it? Is the album good? Yeah, it’s solid.

The first thing to say, as I always say whenever I review music – I do not feel qualified to truly review music. I have a basic understanding of music, but I am nowhere near an expert. So, even more than usual, my opinions here should be taken with a grain of salt because my taste can be a bit eclectic. With that said, I didn’t love Father of All… but I also didn’t hate it. I mostly thought it was simply pretty good. It’s solid. On the one hand, the lyrics are mostly really weak – on the whole, it might be some of the weakest Green Day lyrics in a long time. I mean with lyrics like “I was a teenage teenager / I am an alien visitor / My life’s a mess / and school is just for suckers,” it’s hard to not be reminded that this is a band full of 50-somethings singing lyrics like those. You just kind of cringe when you see and hear them and it’s a major problem for the album as a whole. Though, to be fair, there are some songs with some good lyrics – the one that comes to mind is the final track, “Graffitia”. Unfortunately, this isn’t an album that will be remembered for its groundbreaking lyrical work. These aren’t the worst lyrics ever put to music, but they’re not the best either and they don’t really feel up to the standard one associates with Green Day.

On the other hand, however, a lot of the music is really solid and oftentimes makes a song with less-stellar lyrics work a lot better than it does on paper, leaving you with a mixture of subpar lyrics but really good music. In the runup to the album, Green Day played up the idea that this album would be one filled with experimentation. And they’re not wrong. Every song on the album sounds totally different from the others, each bringing their own style and inspiration. It’s really neat hearing Green Day try so many different things and I’ll always prefer this kind of experimentation to them just pumping out another Dookie or American Idiot. And, luckily, the experimentation mostly worked, leaving us with some truly catchy and interesting songs that stand out amongst their own back catalog. Plus, it really sounds like the band is having a lot of fun, and that fun definitely bleeds into the songs, themselves, infusing them with the kind of energy that makes them hard to not enjoy.

That said, it’s hard to fully know if I liked the music or not because half the reason the music works is that it’s frequently reminiscent of other songs. For example, “Stab You in the Heart” has an extremely similar riff and overall sound to “Fuck Time,” a song off of 2012’s Dos!, which in turn takes heavy inspiration from the kinds of rock-n-roll popular in the 1950s and 1960s. So, it’s hard to tell whether or not I like “Stab You in the Heart” because it’s good on its own merits or because it reminds me of other songs I have liked and my brain shoots out some of that sweet, sweet dopamine. I mean, this is such a prevalent problem with this album that one song, “Sugar Youth,” features a bit towards the end that sounds almost identical in melody to the verses of an earlier song, “Oh Yeah” – the only difference is that “Sugar Youth” has a faster tempo. This isn’t necessarily a problem as the band does a solid job at putting their own spin on these familiar-sounding tunes, but it is sometimes distracting. On the whole, though, the music is easily the best part of the album, with nearly every song landing pretty well. Unfortunately, the songs are as good as they are in spite of the lyrics, instead of because of/in conjunction with them. For many, this will be perfectly fine. But I always prefer a mixture of really good lyrics and really good music. An album isn’t successful in my eyes if it doesn’t have both. So, while a lot of the music on Father of All… really slaps, the lyrics do let things down a bit.

Here’s where we get into some of my more specific tastes. I prefer albums that have some kind of cohesion; whether it’s a concept album, something thematically tied together, or just something whose songs feel placed in a particular order for a particular reason. Father of All… has none of these elements. Green Day albums frequently take me on some kind of emotional journey, even the ones that don’t have an overarching theme or concept, but I didn’t get that at all from Father of All… and it definitely leaves me feeling like this is less of a cohesive whole and more of a collection of songs thrown together. In fact, listening to the album creates a sort of weird experience where it honestly feels like you might as well be listening to it on shuffle for the sheer lack of cohesion found in its order. There’s no real rhyme or reason as to why a particular song is placed where it is and this sonic confusion adds to the whole manic energy of the album, I guess. However, none of this is an inherently bad thing; a lot of artists do that and are very successful with it. It’s just not what I prefer.

With all of that said, there’s definitely some good stuff about the album. I’d say there’s only one song that I’d truly call a bad one – and that’s “Fire, Ready, Aim.” And, to be totally fair, it’s not even that the song is bad, it’s just the least interesting of the bunch and the one that feels the most “generic Green Day”. Otherwise, the songs range from great (“Meet Me on the Roof,” “Sugar Youth,” “Graffitia”) to solid (“Father of All…,” “Oh, Yeah,” “I Was a Teenage Teenager,” “Stab You in the Heart”) to just fine (“Junkies on a High,” “Take the Money and Crawl”). It’s impressive how many of the songs I enjoyed even with my issues with the lyrics. It’s hard to deny that this album frequently slaps. I don’t feel like most of the songs rank among the best of Green Day’s output, but they also don’t have to. Father of All… is an album filled with some really fun tracks and that’s definitely something to praise.

At the end of the day, Father of All… is certainly not a bad album. It’s not my favorite Green Day album, nor is it my least favorite (I’d say that honor still belongs to the trilogy, as a whole). On the whole, it’s really solid. I really respect the way Green Day tried to experiment with their sound on this record. It doesn’t always work as well as they’d like, often coming off as near-imitation instead of true experimentation, but I will always support artists trying to evolve their sound instead of staying stagnant. While the lyrics aren’t particularly great, the music frequently makes up for it, leaving an often catchy, frequently enjoyable album. There’s an infectious joy to the sheer fun it sounds like the band is having on the album, and that joy bleeds into all of the songs – even the ones I didn’t love. I’m not sure how many of these songs will enter my frequently-played list, but it’s always nice to have a collection of songs that are pretty good. Especially from your favorite band. My biggest complaint, aside from the lyrics, is that I wish the album had more cohesion as a whole; it would just make the whole thing feel a bit more special. That being said, it’s definitely a solid album. I suspect this album will ultimately be polarizing, pleasing just as many people as it irritates. As all good art should do.

3 out of 5 wands.

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