Rock 'n' roll is 45 years old. That's older than most A&R guys. That's older than the parents who are dropping off their 13-year-olds at the Blink 182 concert. There is nothing new left to do in rock 'n' roll. There just isn't. Those still flogging the expired animal have long since traded in the worn-out notion of originality and the battered catch phrase "cutting edge" in favor of the new-school practice of "creative plagiarism." It's the buzz word in the company HQs of "The Business," as label execs encourage it and corporate counsel keeps one eye cocked over the shoulder, ever on the lookout for some cranky old tunesmith who might just get "lawsuit happy." Hey, aren't we on the same team here?
Complying wholeheartedly with the new thinking is Green Day. Warning is the follow-up to their last mega-smash, '97's Nimrod, the one that yielded the surprisingly sentimental "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," which even aided a touching moment on Seinfeld. Warning, as in, Warning, Green Day no longer has even the most remote ties to punk music. Warning, these songs have been Frankensteined together from the discarded fragments of other people's songs, or, Warning, this album is infectious to a fault because of its instant familiarity and immediate disposability.
But why get harsh about it? It's not worth the bother. Why not have fun with it instead? It is, after all, a shameless power-pop record, and like the gooey bubblegum that is its closest cousin, enjoy the sugar sugar for what it is. You can even play your own trivia-style game with it; hell, design a board and see who gets to "platinum" first, as you try to complete the jigsaw puzzle of lifted song sections that make up this album. Play along and see if you scored the same as we did.
Some of the numbers are downright tricky. The title track is sort of slowed-down Romantics, with a vague Joe Jackson melody and the acoustic guitar from "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies (or, if you prefer, a straight cop of the Kinks' "Picture Book"). "Blood, Sex and Booze" couldn't be more obvious in its homage to "How Are You" by Cheap Trick, not even if Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong came bounding onto the stage with a checkerboard Gibson Explorer. Track three, "Church on Sunday," is "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello. Hopefully, the boys in Reprise Legal are sending their Season's Greetings a little early to Sony's (Columbia's) legal department. Armstrong knows no limits; he'll trod anywhere to snag a good hook, even to lift the Dovells' "Bristol Stomp" (of all things, sheesh) for "Castaway." "Hold On" borrows its title from Herman's Hermits (now that's cred), its harmonica riff from the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better," and its chorus from Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play."
Elsewhere, the source material is blatantly smashed in your face. "Waiting" is almost a duplicate melody of Pet Clark's "Downtown," and to confirm that, the second verse begins with Billy Joe singing the word "downtown" with the same phrasing. On the bonus rounds, like "Macy's Day Parade," only the most diligent and cool-headed players will spot the twin melodic lifts from Steely Dan's "My Old School" and the Stones' "Rocks Off." All or nothing, or what's behind copyright number three.
Hey, maybe this was all subconscious plagiarizing, like George Harrison maintained was the case with him, even as the tone-deaf judge slammed down his gavel, unable to deny the note-for-note replication of "He's So Fine" that was Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." Whatever the case, it's business as usual for rock 'n' roll 2000. Vanna, tell 'em what they've won.
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