“Rock ’n’ roll has become so tame,” Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong told Apple Music in late 2019, just after unveiling “Father of All…,” the opening track and semi-titular single on his punk outfit’s 13th full-length. “A lot of rock acts are always trying to look for the feel-good song of the year. I think rock music should make you feel bad.” The irony was that the Motown-inspired “Father of All…”—all handclaps, blistering guitars, and Armstrong singing in an unrecognizable falsetto—was nothing if not feel-good. Green Day has become a cross-generational punk band by pairing bright, unshakable melodies with thoughts on death, war, anxiety, insomnia, masturbation, the fall of empires, masturbation, and so on. Imagine how they’d respond to the Trump era.
Father of All... finds them at their most succinct, clocking in at just 26 minutes—less than it’d take you to listen to “Jesus of Suburbia” just three times. (“I realized I hate long songs,” Armstrong said.) Though 2004’s American Idiot is channeled in spirit—its iconic album art is referenced on the cover here, just behind the unicorn puking up a rainbow—Green Day trades operatics for dystopian jukebox fare. There are slightly ominous calls to the dance floor (“Meet Me on the Roof”) and tales of love gone violent (“Stab You in the Heart”) and Springsteenian scenes of crumbling cities, each gifted the natural bounce of an early rock ’n’ roll or R&B single. “Oh Yeah!”—itself a psychedelic skewering of social media addiction and American gun violence—lifts its opening notes from Joan Jett’s 1981 take on now-disgraced glam artist Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” It feels highly intentional—a provocation wrapped up in a catchy riff. “There’s a lot of depression, but with a sense of humor,” Armstrong said of the record’s balance between light and dark. “I think we live in just a time of complete and total chaos—or else we’ve always been, but now it’s turned up to Trump. So it’s just trying to reflect what’s going on. And it’s not really writing political songs, but just writing the shit that you see every day.”