Green Day: New Single, “Father of All…” – Trying Something New?

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I’ve always considered myself to be a “catalog fan” of most the bands/artists I like. By that, I mean when I find an album by a group I like I tend to go backwards from that point in time and buy all of their albums, i.e. the entire catalog. As an aside, I heard Courtney Love of Hole once describe her band as a “catalog type of band, like Bob Dylan.” Uh, not quite babe. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hole. With most bands, after I’ve secured the back catalog I tend to buy each new album from that point onward. I tend to look forward to these new albums, like emails from old friends.

Green Day falls into that “catalog” type of band Ms. Love was speaking of. I bought Dookie, like we all did. I did not replace it when it was removed from my apartment by a young lady I was dating. You couldn’t escape that record and I’d grown tired of it…I figured let her have the album as I hadn’t provided much else to her. When I met the Rock Chick, one of our first dates was to a record store and she picked up Insomniac and Nimrod. She already had Dookie and the underrated gem, Warning. Suddenly, I was back into Green Day.

I was surprised to learn that after the recording of Warning and the subsequent tour, the band almost broke up. Billie Joe Armstrong, lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter had hit a writer’s block. There was so much pressure on him to repeat the success of Dookie he had become afraid to even present ideas to the band, Mike Dirnt (bassist) and Tre Cool (drummer). They had to go into couples er, band therapy to work it out. Billie Joe finally admitted he wanted to write something like “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wanted to move the band in another direction but was afraid to mention it to his bandmates. They emerged with a stronger bond and the hit album American Idiot. 

Now, I also subscribe to the great man theory of rock and roll, something I stole from a history class. It posits that there are certain important people, these “great men (or women),” who can have a major effect on rock and roll in their time.  I think about Billie Joe Armstrong this way, the same way I think about Jack White or Beck. I’ve been impressed with Armstrong’s constant search to expand or change Green Day’s sound and approach. He’s always striving for something new. It’s not like he’s releasing a string of albums of oldies (ahem, Rod), he’s pushing the band in different, brave new directions.

They went from the new punks on the block to writing Rock Operas, ala the Who. After a couple of those albums (American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown) they veered back into non connected, “collection of songs” type records. For reasons unclear, he decided that Green Day should record and release three albums at once, Uno!Dos!, and finally Tre! (a play on the drummer’s name). Billie famously had a breakdown during the tour for the triptych of albums. He’d bitten off more than he could chew.

Clean and sober, Billie Joe and Green Day returned in 2016 with Revolution Radio, which ironically the Rock Chick didn’t like but I loved, LP Review: Green Day “Revolution Radio,” They retrench and relaunch. Well, I loved that trio of records prior to that, but I think I’m alone in that, but I thought Revolution Radio was a punchy return to form. The Rock Chick feels that they’ve become too polished and are more “arena rock” now. She longs for a track as nasty as “Geek Stink Breath.” She’s not wrong. All rock and roll could do with a little less polish.

Ever the workaholic, while Green Day took some time off, Billie Joe kept working. Like his 2013 duets album with Norah Jones, Foreverly, Armstrong decided to work with a side project. By the way, everyone should check out Foreverly, choosing Norah Jones to sing with him was an inspired choice. I hope they work together again. Anyway, last year Billie put out a side project with a new band, The Longshot, that was more in keeping with his day job in Green Day or his first side project, The Foxboro Hot Tubs. I loved the album and all the EPs they subsequently put out, LP Review: ‘Love Is For Losers’ From The Longshot, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s New Side Project, and The Longshot Return (Already?) With A Single and 3 EP’s – Billie Joe Armstrong Can’t Stop!. The Longshot was a rocking good time… certainly it seems that Armstrong was having a lot more fun than he had in a while. I mean, they covered Ozzy’s “Goodbye To Romance” for fucks sake!

Green Day recently released a new single, the title track from an album that won’t come out until February, Father of All… The first time I played the song for the Rock Chick, she stood up and walked out of the room. I have to admit it was quite a surprise. Upon further listens, it does sound like Green Day but that first listen was a stunner. Let me say, first and foremost, Tre Cool’s propulsive drumming is the best thing in this song. I realize Billie Joe wants to drive Green Day in different directions, but he’s deploying a falsetto that sounds utterly foreign to me. I will say the track, after that initial surprise, has grown on me. It’s punchy and has a great punk-like energy. I like Billie Joe’s guitar work on the track. Mike Dirnt lays down an aggressive bass line. It’s certainly not arena rock.

It took me quite a few listens but I finally got to a point where I can say, I don’t hate it. I can’t say I love it, I can’t say it gets me excited for what’s next on this new album like most first singles do. I typically only review stuff I like on B&V, to get the word out there. This post is truly the exception, I’m more baffled than anything. I’ve liked almost everything Green Day has done, so I’m hopeful the album surprises me, whatever direction Armstrong and the lads decide to go in. I’d still recommend checking this song out, but approach with caution, it doesn’t sound like Green Day… which was probably the point in the first place.

 

 

 

The Longshot Return (Already?) With A Single and 3 EP’s – Billie Joe Armstrong Can’t Stop!

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I was sitting in one of my favorite watering-holes recently, enjoying a mint julep with a friend. This is the kind of bar that has bottles from floor to ceiling. They even have an old-school ladder, like libraries of old, on which the bartenders scamper up and down and roll it left and right to grab those bottles on the higher shelves. It’s fun to watch but it all looked like a lot of work. My friend and I were discussing and of course lauding our wives for their love of activity. In my case I must confess, The Rock Chick is always busy doing something. I like to say that, like commercials for the Army when I was a kid, she gets more done before 6 am than I get done all day. I never understood why that was a selling point for the Army, by the way. My friend and I are both individuals who prefer a more leisurely approach to life… a nice cocktail, some music on the turntable and a calm moment to contemplate the joys of existence. My approach is more like Prince’s song, “I was busy doing something next to nothing but different than the day before.” There’s a scene in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray’s character, Peter Venkman says something like, “I want you to think, that Peter Venkman, he’s the kind of guy who gets things done.” That’s my wife. I don’t share that zeal.

However, it appears that Green Day front man and leader of the new band The Longshot Billie Joe Armstrong shares that love of activity. I know he has an addictive personality and I don’t know if that plays into this but you have to wonder. Merely a week after releasing the great, punky new album, Love Is For Losers, (LP Review: ‘Love Is For Losers’ From The Longshot, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s New Side ProjectArmstrong and crew are back with another single and three EPs. That Billie Joe Armstrong, he’s the type of guy who gets things done. I am having flashbacks to that whole Uno!Dos!, and Tre! episode with Green Day. It’s not unprecedented to release everything you’ve recorded, it’s just usually staggered over a longer period of time. The Red Hot Chili Peppers started releasing the b-sides they recorded during the I’m Beside You sessions, but it took a while.  It was with great surprise that I saw on social media the Longshot announce this flurry of releases.

The first single, which I found out actually came out almost simultaneously with Love Is For Losers is entitled “Devil’s Kind.” It’s another punky rocking song. I really like this track and frankly it wouldn’t have been out of place on Love Is For Losers. It’s a little harder edged, perhaps, but a great tune. I can’t find confirmation on line, but I believe this track is penned by Armstrong.

The first EP is entitled Bullets and has a mere two tracks. Both of the tracks on this EP, “Give It All To You” and “Keep Me Satisfied” have a strong, early-Beatles vibe. When I listened to Love Is For Losers for the first time, I mentioned that I got this vintage music vibe as well as a punk vibe. It was part punk, part 60s garage band. Although I admit the garage band vibe was more of an accent. The two songs on Bullets are all retro, Beatlesque tracks. Both songs clock in at under 2 minutes. They’re both good songs but literally sound like outtakes from Meet The Beatles. Both of these tracks, I believe are originals. While both tracks are interesting, I don’t think either is essential. They’re very different than the sound of Love Is For Losers. 

The second EP, entitled Razor Baby contains 4 tracks. My favorite of the four is probably “Fever Blister” another slab of slamming punk rock. They play this track fast and hard. I love a chorus that starts “I look so repulsive….” Like “Devil’s Kind” this track wouldn’t have been out of place on Love Is For Losers. The next track, another original, is entitled “Razor Baby.” It’s a more trance like track. The playing is slowed down and Armstrong’s vocal is slightly distorted. I wouldn’t call it a ballad, just mid-tempo. It’s got a very garage rock feel to it, just a lower energy vibe. Again, it’s another track I like. The third track, “I’ve Got Problems,” bursts out of the speakers like early Green Day. It rocks fast and hard. The riff slips and slides around. I’m not sure why this one missed the cut for the album. The final track, and perhaps the most surprising on this EP is the final track, a cover of Cheap Trick’s “Southern Girls” from their album In Color. They slow it down quite a bit and there’s even more distortion on Armstrong’s vocals. This version is far cry from the arena-rock style of the original, although it does slowly build. I like cover songs, it’s like a 2 for 1 special, and I did enjoy this track. Full disclosure, I do love Cheap Trick.

It appears the last track on Razor Baby, the Cheap Trick cover, was merely a harbinger of what was to come on the final, 5-track EP, Return To Sender. It’s a fascinating grab-bag of covers. This EP just sounds like a band having a good time.  They cover one of my all time favorite early Who songs, “So Sad About Us” in what is a very faithful rendition of the original. Of course Armstrong has covered the Who before with Green Day on a note-for-note version of “A Quick One While He’s Away.” From the Who, the Longshot heads to the Ramones and a tuneful “Can’t Make It On Time,” with a brief, tasty guitar solo, followed by a spot-on melancholy version of the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By,” originally written for Marianne Faithful. As a Stones fanatic, I was really thrilled to hear that last one but in all honesty, I like all of these tracks. It’s like listening to a great bar band. The final covers on Return To Sender are perhaps the oddest selections – “I Am A Rock,” the Simon And Garfunkel ballad and the Plimsoul’s “Million Miles Away.” Like I said, Armstrong is clearly having a great time with all of this.

If you count “Devil’s Kind” and all the tracks on the three EPs, Armstrong and the Longshot have literally released the same number of songs that appeared on the debut record, Love Is For Losers. For all I know, this Friday we’ll be treated to another dozen tracks… that Billie Joe Armstrong probably gets more done before 6 am than I get done all day… Check these tracks out, I think you’ll find some things you’ll like. Covers songs aren’t for everyone, but there’s a wide variety to choose from. Meanwhile, I’ll be “busy doing something next to nothing….”

Cheers!

 

LP Review: ‘Love Is For Losers’ From The Longshot, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s New Side Project

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“I think everyone should spread as many rumors and lies about the Longshot as possible…” – Billie Joe Armstrong

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the ’90s music scene. The easiest and perhaps the laziest way to describe the ’90s is to describe it as the Grunge Era. And while Grunge was a powerful force in music, Kurt Cobain and crew certainly destroyed everything that came before them, there was a lot more going on in music at the time. There was a ton of what was described as “alternative rock” back then, which was basically anything that wasn’t “classic rock.” Or basically, alternative rock was anything that wasn’t say, Foghat. It’s easy to look at the ’90s as the last Golden Age of Rock. Guitar driven bands are few and far between nowadays… Thank heaven for Greta Van Fleet!

When I read about that era now, I notice a lot of bands get sort of lumped together. I see Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden all lumped together with Green Day, who were another ’90s powerhouse. And while Green Day got big with Dookie in 1994, I’ve always viewed them as being apart from the Grunge thing. Green Day were punk rockers, plain and simple. I’m not suggesting they were derivative, they were just clearly punk. While all the Grunge guys and especially Nirvana were influenced by punk, they were something different. Pearl Jam was more influenced by classic rock than they’d probably be willing to admit. Soundgarden, to me at the time, were Black Sabbath with a better vocalist (I’m talking about Ozzy here, not Dio, I love those Sabbath LPs with RJD…). I will also say, in terms of differentiating Green Day from the other bands of the era, I think that Green Day had a better rhythm section in Tre Cool (drums) and Mike Dirnt (bass) than the other bands… with all due respect to Nirvana’s Grohl/Novoselic, Soundgarden’s Cameron/Shepherd, or Pearl Jam’s Ament/plug-in-drummer-name here. Pearl Jam went through more drummers than Spinal Tap. None of those rhythm sections were bad, I’m just saying Tre Cool is a kick ass drummer. And I do like Grohl as a drummer more than I do as a front man…but I’m off on a tangent here.

If you listen to Green Day’s Dookie, their major label debut, or any of their earlier albums, they were very punk. There was a rawness to the music and a certain amount of menace. They’ve always had a good sense of humor, but it came with a great “fuck you” attitude. You could hear a definite influence of the Clash or the Sex Pistols in early Green Day. As the years passed, their sound evolved and expanded, I think, for the better. Listening to Green Day now, they sound more like the power-pop/rock of say, Big Star with admittedly more powerful guitar, arena-rock size choruses and stronger hooks. My favorite album from Green Day remains their most diverse musically, Warning, which at the time was their least selling album. After that they went heavily into the Rock Opera genre, with American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. Over their career Green Day has lost a bit of that menace in their sound but I’ve remained a big fan. I liked their last album, Revolution Radio (LP Review: Green Day “Revolution Radio,” They retrench and relaunch).

The mastermind behind Green Day is, of course, Billie Joe Armstrong. As those of you who regularly read B&V know, I’ve always subscribed to the “Great Man” (or woman, I’m using the generic term “man,” because its sounds better than Great Person) theory of rock. I cribbed the theory from a history class. It basically means that at certain points in history or in this case rock and roll, certain great men, er I mean people, came forward to have a significant impact on things. I consider, along with guys like Jack White or Eddie Vedder, Billie Joe Armstrong to be one of these “great” people. He’s now stepped out of Green Day and formed a new band or as they like to call it, a new side-project.

It’s not the first time Armstrong has done this. With the other members of Green Day, they put out an album of 60s style rock tunes under the moniker the Foxboro Hot Tubs. There are rumors a band named the Network was also actually Green Day out there, but it’s never been proved to the point I take that as gospel. Those projects (if the Network really was Green Day) were something more akin to the Beatles pretending to be Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, just a fun way to take some of the pressure off being Green Day. I loved that Foxboro album, it’s a lot of fun. I also followed Armstrong on his truly first “solo” album outside of Green Day, Foreverly, which was a cover album of an old Everly Brothers’ album (Songs My Father Taught Me), literally song for song, only in a different order. I loved that album, but that could be because in a stroke of genius Armstrong invited Norah Jones to harmonize with him. It’s a quiet little album in the vein of Plant/Krauss’ Raising Sand. 

So now we have the Longshot. So, in order “spread as many rumors” as I can, I’ll tell you what I know and what I think. Armstrong wrote all the tunes on Love Is For Losers, except for a curious cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Goodbye to Romance.” I suspect that he plays all the instruments on this album, although his son is credited as drumming on one song. They’ve done a few live gigs, and the Longshot, at least live, consists of long time Green Day touring guitarist Jeff Matika on bass, Kevin Preston on guitar and David Field on drums. Obviously Armstrong is on vocals and guitar as well.

Love Is For Losers is probably the “punk-iest” thing I’ve heard Armstrong do since Insomniac. The rock songs on this album don’t reach the punk menace of “Geek Stink Breath” but what songs do? This album is a blast of punk-y guitar-rock full of big time riffs. I will say Armstrong has not lost his ability to write hook-filled songs. My first listen through, I got an almost 50s vintage vibe running through the music, but I think that may be because I’ve been listening to a lot of Elvis lately… But when you think about it, the original punk rockers were really stripping away a lot of the artifice that had grown up in rock and roll and took it back to it’s simpler, less complicated roots, albeit with more attitude and well, menace.

I will say, a lot of this music, at least through the first few listens does seem, for lack of a better word, “monochromatic.” Rockers like “The Last Time,” the title track, “Cult Hero” and “Taxi Driver” all sound alike on first listen. The more I listen, the more I like these tracks, and I start to hear the different riffs emerge. There are a few stylistic breaks with that core sound, “Chasing The Ghost” still has guitars but Armstrong uses some vocal effects with interesting results. And, the aforementioned cover of the ballad “Goodbye To Romance,” which sent my wife running from the room, at least made me smile. I mean, who covers Ozzy?

Armstrong seems extremely energized by this creative outlet outside of Green Day. And while I’m not sure I’d say this is a 100% return to punk, it’s certainly got a lot of that swagger and energy. A lot of times side projects are half-assed, narcissistic projects, but you certainly can’t say that about the Longshot. It feels like Armstrong is really into this and is having a great time doing it. While Love Is For Losers isn’t going to change the course of music, it’s nice to hear Armstrong unleash the less polished guitar sound. God knows, we need more guitar driven rock out there. This album certainly deserves a listen.

Cheers!