Green Day are at somewhat of a crossroads. They're a decade and six
records into their career and pushing 30. For a while, it's been clear
that Billie Joe Armstrong isn't just a dumb punk. Warning continues
the trend of the band's recent work. The singing is a little slower,
the guitar is a little less heavy. Billie Joe also seems less
concerned with attitude, coming across as unpretentious and good
natured. The songs are not the more nuanced pop Armstrong seems
capable of. They're pretty basic but dependably likeable. Warning is a
good, straight forward record.
Warning is hardly a major break for Green Day. Most of the songs
are like one of their earlier ones. There are some slower rockers,
with shuffling drums and a sturdy Mike Dirnt bass line, that resemble
Redundant or Long View. The title track is pleasantly unassuming rock
that cites terms we grew up with, like this is only a test and keep
out of reach of children, that hint at dangers all around us. Blood,
Sex and Booze is such an amiable rocker that its tale of a masochist
who enjoys being tied up hardly seems threatening.
Church On Sunday is very winning. It's buoyant like Elvis
Costello's Peace Love & Understanding. Tre Cool and guest Benmont
Tench have fun with the Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve roles. Billie Joe
tries to act like a grownup, working to earn the respect of the woman
he'd die for. He's even willing to go to church with her. Castaway is
fast, light fun. A lot of the songs on Warning sound familiar and
aren't much more than throwaways but the music is always energetic
with good guitar riffs.
Warning has lots of links to classic pop. Waiting is about being
in a good place and ready to make things even better. Its bouncy,
upbeat riff is a little like Petula Clark's Downtown, as well as the
version of Do You Wanna Dance done by The Ramones, who are among Green
Day's heroes. It's worth noting that Green Day have always been better
than The Ramones at making punky music that appeals to a wide audience
and they seem to be aging more gracefully than the Ramones. Billie Joe
plays a harmonica line on Hold On like the one from the Beatles'
Should Have Known Better. Hold On becomes a march with a deliberate,
virtuous sound as Billie Joe vows to keep "my conscience beating."
Standing up for yourself and finding personal virtue are repeated
themes on Warning. On Deadbeat Holiday and Fashion, Billie Joe mocks
those concerned with being cool or fashionable. With Billie Joe
coming as close to a punk yell as he does on Warning, the kind of
dopey Minority sounds a little out of place. But its good natured
simplicity and individualism are consistent with the rest of the
Warning's most ambitious song is Misery, a Kurt Weill style (via
the Doors version of Alabama Song) dramatic pop song. Billie Joe plays
mandolin, Dirnt plays accordion and drummer Tre Cool plays accordion.
Mexican sounding horns also show up on a tale of people who face
emptiness that "will fill your soul with sorrow" and have fallen into
a sad street life of addiction and mortal danger. The CD ends with
Macy's Day Parade, the closest Warning comes to a Time Of Your Life
style ballad. Its acoustic guitar and sincere vocals are a little too
much like Extreme's awful ballad More Than Words but Billie Joe isn't
showy or emotive. Billie Joe doesn't have a great voice but Macy's Day
Parade succeeds for the reason Time Of Your Life and other Green Day
songs have. He sounds real, not like a faker.
As much as any 2000 release, Warning is consistently enjoyable.
You get the feeling Billie Joe can go a little deeper and try some
more challenging music. But it's hard to complain about a record where
all 12 songs are good. Warning isn't stupid and it is a lot of fun.