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.

 

 

 

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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!

 

LP Review: Green Day “Revolution Radio,” They retrench and relaunch

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I’m like everybody else when it comes to Green Day. They swept into my life like a juggernaut through a town square when their major label debut “Dookie” came out. In my mind, I tend to lump them in with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and all the other “grunge” bands that took over the world of music in the 90s, but when I think about it, Green Day was really always a bit apart. First and foremost I think of most the grunge bands as being informed by punk rock, but Green day actually was a punk rock band. Most of the grunge scene erupted out of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest and Green Day germinated in Oakland.

“Dookie” was so over played and beat to death by rock radio and I actually sold my copy at the used record store. “Dookie” was so massive it sort of dwarfed their two, fine, follow-up albums, “Insomniac” and “Nimrod.” I completely lost track of them, such was my saturation with “Dookie.” Oh sure, an occasional track would slip through my rather intense filter: “Geek Stink Breath” (my wife, the Rock Chick’s all time favorite), “Hitchin’ A Ride,” and “Brain Stew” were all great tracks, but I never investigated either of those records. It didn’t help that the ubiquitous single “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” became such a huge success. Once again radio beat Green Day to death before I could really get into them. And, I’ll be the first to admit, I just hate that song.

On one of my first dates with the Rock Chick we went to a record store, something I’d never done on a date before… stupid me. She bought a stack of CDs almost as tall as she was and one of them was Green Day’s “Warning,” an album I just loved immediately. We played it all evening long over pasta and a whole lot of wine, but I digress. Billie Joe Armstrong could write hooks all day long. There wasn’t a dud on that record. I began to investigate the Rock Chick’s other Green Day records and bam I was in. I even rediscovered “Dookie” for the classic it is. What jumped out at me on those records was how fantastic the rhythm section was – Mike Dirnt is a great bassist and Tre Cool may be the best drummer out there today.

Even though “Warning” was a great record, it appears Green Day’s creative process had broken down as the pressure to repeat “Dookie’s” success loomed, even 4 records in. The band ended up going to “band counciling” something akin to marriage counciling where Billie Joe admitted the pressure he felt was causing him to be hesitant to share new material with the band and to their, at the time, withering criticism. He apparently went on to admit that he’d always wanted to write the punk rock “Bohemian Rhapsody.” With the air cleared and the creative process open to roam free, Green Day came out with two Rock Operas in a row. “American Idiot” was probably the best of the two, but I think there was some great music on “21st Century Breakdown.”

After “21st Century Breakdown” came out I think everybody could agree the rock opera thing was probably played out. Instead of going back to basics and putting out a simple, straight forward punk rock album, over achiever Billie Joe Armstrong wrote 3 albums worth of material. I really liked “Uno,” “Dos” and “Tre” but the Rock Chick, who had loved Green Day much longer than I did, dismissed the albums as too polished and overproduced. I have to agree with her there, they were very polished records. She missed the raw menace of their earlier records. I think like all multiple albums, there was probably one great album somewhere there within the three. No one will ever convince me that “Kill the DJ” isn’t a stone cold classic. I think I may be the only person who really loved that trio of records, alas… Sadly Billie Joe succumbed to substance abuse and the subsequent tour was cancelled.

Which all leads me to their new, Billboard chart-topping LP, “Revolution Radio.” At last we have that return to a more raw, “punkier” sound, trimmed to just twelves songs. While this is not a rock opera per se, there are some definite themes and repeated lyrics that show up in different songs that tie the songs together. The entire album feels very much a unified whole. After the head-fake opening track, “Somewhere Now,” now which starts off acoustic for a minute or two then explodes into an electric anthem, Green Day snarl back with a triptych of some of their hardest music in quite a while: “Bang Bang,” “Revolution Radio,” and “Say Goodbye.” “Bang Bang” is a harrowing look inside a mass shooter’s thoughts. “Revolution Radio” is the call to arms here and for reasons I can’t explain reminds me of the Clash, or at least something they’d have written. Current events are very much a part of the lyrical make up of this album. “Troubled Times” is another topical kick ass tune. “Youngbloods,” a tune that may be written for Billie’s wife, is another great, upbeat tune and may be my favorite of the litter. “Forever Now” is punchy fun.

All that said, there are a handful of songs that are little more polished. I love the idea of the song “Outlaws,” but that chorus sounds like it was made for arena-ready crowds to sing along with. No matter how punk Green Day and Billie Joe Armstrong are, they know how to write and exploit a hook. They simply can’t help it, they’re just melodic song writers. “Still Breathing” is a song I like but I wouldn’t describe it as a punk song. “Ordinary World” is an acoustic strummer that ends the album, and is much akin to “Good Riddance.” While I hated the latter song, I must say the new one doesn’t evoke that feeling in me yet… If they start playing “Ordinary World” at every wedding I go to like “Good Riddance” was, I reserve the right to change my mind on that…

Other than those handful of songs, the guitar is loud and punky throughout. Tre Cool’s drums are, as always, amazing. He’s probably the punkest thing about this record. His drum fills on “Bang Bang” are heart pounding. Mike Dirnt, the master of the strolling bass line is in fine form here as well. The band sounds rejuvenated and reinvigorated. The world needs an important band like Green Day who can rock this hard and still carry a social message. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind seeing a little Revolution around here and what better place than on the Radio?

This one is a definite recommended buy from B&V. Turn this one up loud and enjoy!

Cheers!

Green Day’s New Single, “Bang Bang” – Rock Chick Approved!

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I was once again forced by my corporate overlords to travel to California this week. I actually ended up in San Francisco for most of the week, which is coincidentally only a bridge away from the home base of Hall of Fame Punk Rockers, Green Day. Ironically, it was only last weekend I lamented that Green Day were overdue for some new music,  and whilst I was in their neighborhood, Green Day drops a new single on the world. As I read on line recently, I’m not sure if that’s truly irony or just coincidence, because Alanis Morissette really confused me on the whole “ironic” thing but I digress.

I was beginning to worry about Green Day. It’s been four years since they’d released three albums at once, “Uno,” “Dos” and “Tre.” Billie Joe Armstrong had a very public meltdown and ended up in rehab for addiction to prescription drugs. It goes back to what I always say, kids, stick to dark brown, murky, fermented fluids. Pills and powders only lead to trouble. A few years ago Billie Joe did release a beautiful, quiet duets album of Everly Brothers’ covers with Norah Jones, “Foreverly.” And while I loved that record, it’s not exactly punk or even rock. It’s not a record I’d put on at a party. It’s more of a, sitting on the roof with a tumbler of Blanton’s and a cigar kind of a record.

I am probably the only person who really dug the trio of albums they released in 2012. Like everybody I got on the Green Day bandwagon when “Dookie” ruled the world. That album was inescapable. I eventually sold it, it was so overplayed. “Insomniac” and “Nimrod” never really interested me and it wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick and she reintroduced Green Day to me that I got back on the bandwagon. On one of our early dates, I took the Rock Chick to the record store and she bought a giant stack of CDs which included Green Day’s “Warning.” Wow, that album knocked me out. Overlooked masterpiece? I think so.

Then Green Day went into this “punk rock opera” phase that was hit and miss. I liked “American Idiot” but “21st Century Breakdown” was a bit “meh” for me. When they announced the trio of records in 2012 I was excited as it appeared they’d come out of the rock opera phase and were going back to their punk rock roots again. And, while I loved those records, they were pretty polished for a punk rock band. It was a return to shorter songs, freed from any “story cycle” but the rough, punkier edges had been sanded off. The Rock Chick immediately dismissed the music as overproduced schlock and despaired of bands growing older and losing their edge. I eventually got her to slip “Stay The Night,” “Makeout Party,” “Kill the DJ” and few others onto her “Green Day Playlist.” Even Billie Joe Armstrong admitted that they were striving for a more punk sound but ended up getting the opposite on those records. I don’t care, “Kill the DJ” is still a great Green Day song, no matter what anybody tells you.

So it was with great trepidation that I told the Rock Chick that Green Day had released a new single. I returned from California and quietly mentioned they had a new single out, hoping for some modicum of interest from the Rock Chick. We immediately purchased “Bang Bang” and after the first listen through, to my considerable delight, the Rock Chick nodded, smiled slightly and said, “Well call me pleasantly surprised…” Trust me folks, this is high praise from the Rock Chick.

I have to tell you, “Bang Bang” was everything I thought “Uno,” “Dos,” and “Tre” were going to be. It’s a raw guitar sound that I just love from these guys. Tre Cool’s drumming on this tune is amazing, he’s simply one of the best drummers out there. Mike Dirnt’s bass line is in the pocket, baby! (I’m not even sure what that means… but the bass line is awesome) This tune rocks with an urgency I haven’t heard from Green Day in a long time. The lyrics feel torn from the headlines. The song tells the story of a mass shooting from the viewpoint of the deranged shooter. Controversial, perhaps – but it certainly makes the point that maybe, just maybe, we ought to rethink gun laws around here. “I want to be a celebrity martyr” howls Billie Joe Armstrong and you almost worry he’s armed. It’s chilling, thought provoking and it rocks. What more can you ask for from rock and roll. I was reminded of some of the stronger political stuff the Clash did back in the day. If the rest of the new album, “Revolution Radio” (a title I just love) is as strong as this first single, this is going to be not only a great album, but an important album.

Turn it up loud on this hot summer day and enjoy!

Cheers!