Green Day's Father of All... plays like a copy of a copy
“Party over, oops, out of time”? Not for Green Day. The world is on fire and the veteran punk band is shimmying on the ashes, making what can be described as the group’s first dance record. If the Clash had Combat Rock, the 13th album from Green Day is Apocalypse Disco: 10 punchy tunes made to groove and brood in these terrifying times. The tracks bustle with the pulse of ’60s soul, Motown, British Invasion, glam, new wave, and even a little hip-hop. In theory, it’s a perfect and perfectly contemporary idea. Artists like the 1975, Halsey, and Dua Lipa have had varying degrees of success stirring bitter pills into pop honey, and a band like Green Day is poised to do for the political what those artists do for the personal. However, in practice, Father of All Motherf*ckers (stylized as Father of All…) is a derivative party foul, a spirited genre game that plays like a copy of a copy.
For starters, Green Day have an incredibly narrow vision of what makes rhythm-centric “party” music. Tunes “Fire, Ready, Aim” and “Meet Me on the Roof” burst with handclaps and rock and roll piano vamping. “Take the Money and Crawl” opens with simulated vinyl crackle. Most notably, leader Billie Joe Armstrong swaps his trademark fake Brit sneer for a fake Curtis Mayfield falsetto, “wah-hah”-ing and “ooh-ooh”-ing all over the place. The sound is like the ’90s soul-punk bands (the Make-Up, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Delta 72) if they were neutered from their wild energy and defanged by studio gloss. At its best, Father sounds like a decent Queens of the Stone Age tribute band; at its worst, it sounds like a reemergence of over-polished circa-2003 iPod commercial trifles like Caesars and Jet.
Annoyingly, Green Day often get to their desired destination by tribute that leans too close to Xerox. “Oh Yeah!” borrows the pre-chorus gang vocals of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ 1982 hit “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” itself a cover of the 1973’s glam anthem by convicted pedophile Gary Glitter. It’s less like an iconic riff handed down between generations and more like a wedding band doing a mash-up. “Graffitia” is a pastiche of the Zombies’ hiccupping “Time of the Season” and the Clash’s “I Fought the Law” (again, itself actually a cover) that evokes the title of Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime,” a pileup of signifiers that reads like a secretly political Jack FM playlist. “Stab You in the Heart” sounds like what would happen if someone sang “I wanna stab you in the heart” over the Beatles’ “Hippy Hippy Shake” (once again, it bears repeating, itself a cover).
It’s a shame that Green Day don’t find their groove, as Armstrong’s lyrics are conceptually strong. On paper, Father had the potential to be Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” for America, a late-night turn-up tantrum with lines like “I got paranoia, baby,” “Burning books in a bulletproof backpack,” and “I got blood on my hands in my pockets/That’s what you get turning bullets into rockets.” And what a phenomenal song title “Take the Money and Crawl” is — here wasted on something that sounds like QOTSA borrowing Three 6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly” production tricks. If you’re amped on the idea of punked-up retro-soul rave-ups, the Dirtbombs’ 2001 album Ultraglide in Black is still in print and on streaming services. Father might be the dance party we need, but it’s not the one we want. C-