Foxboro Hot Tubs – [Album]

Thursday, 29 May 2008

By now, the cat has been let out of the bag regarding the fact that ‘the new Green Day’ band gracing the scene, Foxboro Hot Tubs, is actually a side project embarked upon by all three members of Green Day (it’s inconceivable where the similarities could have come from) and, with that information in hand, all that remains is to question why the members would throw some distance between themselves and the band they’ve played in for twenty-one years. It could be that, at an average of thirty-six years old, principal Foxboro players Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool all simply hit their mid-life crises at the same time and wanted to try and recapture the feeling of joy they had during those slap happy and smoothed out years early in their career together (the “I’m just killing time now/I do it all the time now/and it’s killing me” line from “Broadway” points to that motive). It could also be that, after the colossal, worldwide phenomenon and saliva-fest that American Idiot turned out to be (it even garnered ’most important anti-war statement’ kudos from a host of taste-making outlets and publications), the band chickened out because it wasn’t sure what they could do to follow it; the power now at their fingertips to command being too great and imposing for them to handle. Regardless, the fact remains that Green Day stepped back, changed its name for an undisclosed period of time to throw off fair-weather fans, re-established its comfort zone and, with Stop, Drop And Roll!!!, gotten back to basics.

In a lot of ways, those fans that do find Stop, Drop… will not be surprised by what they hear because there are familiar elements in these dozen songs that Green Day has toyed with before. Before Dookie broke the band, for example, Green Day always had a sizable ration of Brit-pop-punk-garage rock in its arsenal (Insomniac pared a lot of that out). On this album that UK influence not only gets re-examined, it’s run with on “Mother Mary,” “Ruby Room,” the decidedly un-punk “Dark Side Of Night" (which sounds like it could have originated in a Sixties-era swingin‘ electric pussycat lounge) and “Pieces Of Truth” (which sounds like “What I Like About You” after being passed through Green Day with a couple of horns in tow).

Some of these tracks do hint at things developed during sound checks while the band was on tour to break the monotony and make each other laugh. That might not be true, but the theory handily explains the inclusion of familiar novelties in songs like “Red Tide” (which borrows the melody and chord progression of The Kinks’ “Tired Of Waiting For You”), “Alligator” (which really is a blatant knock-off of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”) and “27th Ave. Shuffle” (a leaner “Walk Like An Egyptian”) that are obviously not covers per se, but come awfully close and you can almost hear the band laughing as they go.

Still others play like the forgotten tracks jettisoned from albums throughout Green Day’s career (“The Pedestrian” especially could have fallen off during the sessions for Warning or American Idiot), but they still fit seamlessly into the mood that they create here. It’s not as if Stop, Drop…feels like a mixed bag, just that with Green Day’s catalog in the periphery, it’s hard to resist the temptation to try and figure out the modus and motivation behind this album and where each track fits in.

…Or it might just be a release valve to take the pressure off and relieve Green Day of the torturous position it has found itself in since American Idiot took off and the band started doing “important things” like duets with U2 and documentaries that saw them contemplating the Liberty Bell and unused atomic bombs.

Over the last couple of years, it’s true that Green Day has been staring down the barrel of some serious political and message-rock cannons and, for a punk rock band that has always prided itself on its sense of humor, they had to crack a smile eventually. Foxboro Hot Tubs is that release; Stop, Drop And Roll!!! is light-hearted, G-Rated fun.

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