Today (February 7th), Green Day are releasing their Thirteenth studio album, Father Of All Motherfuckers (henceforth referred to as FOAMF), the follow-up to 2016’s Revolution Radio. Revolution Radio was heralded by many Green Day fans as a return to form after the 2012 releases of what are now referred to as the Green Day trilogy: ¡UNO!, ¡DOS! and ¡TRÉ!. All 4 of these proceeding albums are albums that I personally enjoy, albeit to varying levels, but it also turns out that all 4 of them are going to be pertinent when it comes to talking about the new album. But we’ll get to that…
FOAMF is a very interesting album, not always for the right reasons. I should start by saying that Green Day are my favourite band, and as such I’ve been very excited for this album to arrive. I really loved the first single (title track Father of all Motherfuckers) when it arrived alongside the hype of the Hella Mega tour, and that hype was built even further when second track Fire, Ready, Aim was released and proved to be another super-catchy ear worm. The initial impression was that this album was gonna be a little bit of a balls-out-dance-party-fun-time, and in several ways it is. Which leads me to the first thing I find really interesting about this album – I hold two very different opinions about it in my head concurrently, and yet neither of them is vying to be my ‘actual’ opinion. It’s really split me in a way that very few albums have before.
On the one hand, this album does not live up to the lofty expectations I came into it with, for which I am partly to blame. Even more than that though, having listened to it over 20 times at time of writing, I can genuinely say it’s not an album I particularly want from Green Day. However, I then look at my other hand and am very willing to accept and admit that, in spite of these quibbles – I do actually have a fair amount of fun listening to this album. I wouldn’t say I love it. But I do like it. Admittedly, it took me a while to get there, my UDS colleagues can attest to the fact I had a little bit of a tantrum after listening to FOAMF for the first time this past weekend. I think there are probably a lot of Green Day fans who are going to be in a similar boat to myself.
FOAMF didn’t really click with me until I stopped taking it seriously. Whilst I try to temper my expectations, when it comes to Green Day, I always want to like everything they release, but more than that I always want everything they release to be incredible. And going into this album with hopes like that was just ridiculous, to tell the truth. It was never meant to be that. And whilst I’m sure there are some people for whom this album is going to be a massive thing – at the end of the day, it’s clear to me now that all Green Day really wanted to do here was make a record that you can listen to, dance to and above all else, have a lot of fun with. It’s very clear when listening that the band are having fun with it, and while it may not be the album I necessarily wanted from Green Day, I’m also not gonna be the grumpy sod at the party standing in the corner just because I didn’t get what I want when what I actually got has its own merits.
Let’s talk about the music itself. Green Day’s members have made no secret of the fact that this album’s sound was heavily inspired by their listening to Soul, Motown and Glam artists during the writing process. This is definitely evident. However, I wouldn’t say these genres themselves are necessarily sticking out like sore thumbs across the album. More than anything, to me this album sounds and looks a lot like Green Day performing hero worship for their favourite bands from the 60’s and 70’s – and hey, they do that pretty well, I could imagine a lot of these songs appearing on Classic Rock radio stations alongside the actual tracks from those eras and being indistinguishable (well, aside from Billie Joe’s overuse of vocal filters making him sound like he’s permanently on helium nowadays, anyway).
However, the overriding comparison in my mind for this album is actually to Green Day’s aforementioned 2012 Trilogy – the album ¡DOS! in particular. Now, there are a lot of people who like these albums, and there are a lot of people who don’t like these albums. I like them, although I think that of the 37 tracks there’s probably only a single album’s worth that should have been released. The Trilogy also saw Green Day experimenting with their sound in a way that sounded like it was trying to replicate older bands too, again especially on ¡DOS! with it’s old-school Garage-Rock style and production. But I digress…
Another of the really interesting things to me is that on FOAMF, Green Day have either knowingly or unknowingly re-tread the ground that they tried to tread on the Trilogy. But the reason it’s really interesting is that the Trilogy is seen by many as a bit of a failure. Not always just because of the music to be fair – it was during the ramp-up to ¡UNO!’s release that frontman Billie Joe Armstrong went to rehab to deal with substance abuse issues, effectively leaving the remaining two albums without a band to promote them. So, the question for me in 2020 becomes: Is this what they want to be doing going forward? Or is this another one-off? Perhaps an attempt to do what they tried on the Trilogy but better? If that’s the case, I wouldn’t say it’s fully successful, but I wouldn’t say it’s failed either. It does make Revolution Radio stand out a bit though, as if they felt they needed to release an album like it to get people back onside. Although, this is all just conjecture on my part.
Song wise, there are some really good moments here. There are 10 tracks on the album, and I would say that 6 of them are, at the very least, solid tracks that I’d really like to hear live. This album is less than 26 minutes long, which does mean that it’s almost impossible for any of the tracks to outstay their welcome, but a couple of the tracks do give it a go to be fair. Meet Me On The Roof strays too far into Indie Rock territory for my tastes, and instantly became my least favourite track on the album. Junkies On a High feels way too slow and serves as a break for air that I don’t think anyone particularly needs on such a short album. I Was a Teenage Teenager has an excellent chorus and some superb guitar work, but is really let down in the verses by some poor lyrics and uninteresting instrumentation. The least interesting part of the song Oh Yeah is the oh yeah refrain, sampled from Joan Jett’s Do You Wanna Touch Me – in fact I’d go so far as to say that they really shouldn’t have included the sample and just stuck with the already functional chorus the song has.
On the more positive side, the aforementioned first 2 singles remain excellent in the span of the album. My current favourite is Stab You In The Heart, a song that literally reuses the Fuck Time riff from the trilogy during its chorus, but I’m not gonna complain too much when the song you get is as good as this. I’d also highlight Take The Money and Crawl which feels like the heavier end of Elvis Presley’s repertoire updated to fit in at a late-night party.
To summarise, Father Of All Motherfuckers is an album that can grab you if you are willing to let it. It’s not the best album in the world. It’s not the worst album in the world. It’s an album that knows what it wants to be, and what it wants to be is the good time that distracts you from all the other shit happening in the world right now. It’s 26 minutes in which you can just let go of everything for a bit and have some fun. It’s not what I wanted from Green Day, and if I’m being honest, I’m a little disappointed that it’s what we’ve got from Green Day to last for potentially the next 3-4 years (I think if it had been a side-project, I might be way more into it). But it’s perhaps something that we could all stand to have in 2020. Is this going to be for everyone? Not at all. Musically, I don’t really know who this is aimed at, I daresay it will only really be listened to by people who are already Green Day fans and not many other people. I don’t think that’s particularly a bad thing either.
But hey, if you just want some Rock ‘n’ Roll fun for 26 minutes, you could do far worse than this. Then again, you could also probably do far better – after all, Insomniac is only 7 minutes longer!
By Matt Dobbie