I Was A Teenage Teenager (Green Day album review/analysis)
Updated: Feb 10, 2020
Look, music isn't meant to be a focus of this blog, but I didn't tell my two favorite bands to release new albums within a month of each other, so for now, it's about music. Green Day's 13th studio album, Father of All Motherfuckers, (sorry dad, I didn't name it) was released February 7th. With the lead singles and knowing it would be their shortest album yet, I was a bit apprehensive, worried it could be another Trilogy disaster (Uno, Dos, and Tré , released back in 2012 over five months). But anyway, I had pre-ordered the album, and they've always been good about making sure pre-orders arrive the day of release, so I was able to pop the CD in my car and listen on the way to work. I wanted a pure listening experience, so I didn't read any reviews or interviews beforehand.
Well, I cannot lie: I love it! They took a complete left turn with the sound we've come to expect over the past three decades. What's this with Billie singing in falsetto on the opening track? He was inspired to try it after listening to "Sister" by Prince. It's like if they'd taken the songs I liked from the Trilogy and put them all on one album. Musically, it's very classic rock meets bubblegum pop meets glam rock meets Green Day...or, more succinctly, it sounds like one of their side-projects, Foxboro Hot Tubs, which I've always quite enjoyed; a very garage-rock feeling.
If you look at the album artwork and feel a sense of déjà vu, you're not crazy. "What if we fucked with everybody and called it American Idiot part 2?...Well, what if we call it American Idiot part 2: Father of All Motherfuckers?" Billie Joe said during the IHeartRadio album release party . He drew the unicorn himself, and was basically like, yeah, let's throw the unicorn on there for the censors. The logo was designed because Billie was playing with glue one day. (Is it weird to use his first name? I've been a fan for half my life, I feel like I basically know the man.) So yes, that is the arm from the American Idiot artwork.
For those who were expecting an overtly political album, given Trump and the election year, you'll be sorely disappointed. For those of you who like your politics a little less obvious and with a lot more hope and love, this is the album or you. To borrow from an interview they did with The Guardian, “It’s all there in the songs,” Armstrong says. “I’m singing about ‘looking out for the jingoes and heathens’ or ‘another black kid shot in town’.” There’s a lyric about bulletproof backpacks designed as protection during school shootings, “one of the most absurd ideas I’ve ever heard”. But Armstrong doesn’t want to be on the nose. “Everything that is happening in the world is right there on Twitter. It’s so confusing and it’s so depressing. I really wanted to create some kind of escape for people; I didn’t want to be so obvious.”
Some of my early favorites after listening straight through four times already: "Oh Yeah!", a commentary on social media and the evolution of the 15 minutes of fame; "I Was a Teenage Teenager", an instant classic of disaffected youth; "Sugar Youth", just catchy and fun (see analysis below); and "Take the Money and Crawl", because it's down and dirty. Overall, it's a great album that will leave you feeling energized, and finally puts the Trilogy as a whole in perspective, like, "Oh! This is the sound they were going for!"
Lyric Analysis: Why this is a sequel to every album from American Idiot onwards
I'm not crazy, I'm just a 12 year old fan-girl in a 26 (almost 27) year old body. Billie Joe Armstrong has always been an amazing lyricist. American Idiot and it's follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown (21CB), were rock operas. The subsequent Broadway musical used songs from both albums. The Trilogy was described as getting ready for the party (Uno), the party itself (Dos), and the aftermath (Tré). Revolution Radio (or RevRad), which was released a month before Trump won, was the beginning of society breaking down and trying to stay positive. Father of All Motherfuckers is basically, society is shit right now, let's fucking dance and love each other. But it also directly ties in with several songs from the aforementioned works. Now, I don't know if these references to old songs were conscious decisions, or if they were accidents of writing. When you're any kind of writer, there tend to be themes and ways of expressing things that recur throughout your body of work, so, intentional or not, here's how this ties all those albums into the same cannon. The seventh song on FoAM (it's a long title, okay?), "Sugar Youth," has a line in the opening verse, "I've got a fever a non-believer and it's killing me" and before I'd even heard the song, was like...wait a second, that's from "Peacemaker" on 21CB, which begins " Well, I've got a fever/ A non-believer/ I'm in a state of grace". While sung in different styles, it's hard to miss that one. Then, at the start of the chorus, " I got the shakes and I'm on fire/ I got a feeling and it's dangerous" sounds similar to while not being the exact words, as " She's salt of the earth/ And she's dangerous" from "She's a Rebel" off American Idiot. The next song on FoAM, "Junkies on a High" has the line " I'm not a soldier, this ain't no new world order" which seems a repudiation of "you're the soldiers of the new world" from "East Jesus Nowhere" on 21CB. This feels a clear indication that the revolution didn't work. The soldier motif has actually been recurring throughout their music this century, most shockingly in "Bang Bang", which was the lead single from 2016's Revolution Radio, told from the perspective of a mass shooter who literally sees himself as a soldier in his "private holy war". Finally, the last song on the album, "Graffitia", has the refrain " Are we the last forgotten?/ Are we the long lost love?". This evokes the much-maligned "The Forgotten" from Tré, which opens "Where in the world is the forgotten?/They’re lost inside your memory" (personally, one of my favorite songs of the entire Trilogy, but people hated it because it was used in one of the "Twilight" movies. Maybe because I found this fan made video) Also, just the entire concept that there's a place called Graffitia fits especially well with the characters from 21CB. If you actually stuck it through my probably-thought-about-it-too-much analysis, I applaud you. It took me two days to write this post. Now go listen to the album, and get your own lesson in rock and roll!