Used to be you could count on Green Day to report from the front lines of teenage wasteland, suburban division, with punk-prankster anthems about dope, deadbeats and masturbation. But no more. Warning, the California trio’s sixth album, invites the question: Who wants to listen to songs of faith, hope and social commentary from what used to be snot-core’s biggest-selling band?
Now a wealthy family man pushing thirty, singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong has understandably shifted his perspective to the world outside his basement. He’s also begun to take himself more seriously. The problem is, he can’t muster the same excitement for his more mature themes, whether he’s a cranky parent peeved by aggressive marketing (“Fashion Victim”) or an aging adolescent whining about too many rules (“Warning”). When he declares he’s still “marching out of time to my own beat” on “Minority,” he sounds unconvincing.
The once-giddy melodies now settle for midtempo jangle or novelty (the accordion-driven cabaret of “Misery”). Armstrong recast himself as a balladeer in 1997 with “Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life),” and the best tune on Warning picks up where that left off. On “Macy’s Day Parade,” a gorgeously subtle string arrangement underpins lyrics that pine for “a brand new hope.” Green Day as the new Bread —who knew?