Album Review: Shenanigans

Happy half-off-chocolate and greeting cards day!  I’m hoping you all enjoyed the greatest news of Valentine’s Day as much as I did – this tweet from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.

“Happy Valantine’s day! Officially started recording the new record today. It’s **** TIME!!!!”

(Two quick Twitter side notes from Billie Joe:  1. The words weren’t actually bleeped out in the tweet, in case you’re wondering, though “Valentine’s” was spelled incorrectly.  2. Billie Joe is following four people on Twitter, and only four…a band called “Emily’s Army”, Michael Moore, Bill Maher, and Lady Gaga.  Is that the Mount Rushmore of Twitter randomness?)

Trust me…my first two Google Image searches were “lady gaga michael moore” and “lady gaga bill maher.” Didn’t quite work out.

But the man’s not an English teacher, he’s a singer, and I couldn’t be happier to hear that Green Day is back in the studio for what will be their ninth studio album.  That got me thinking about a Green Day-themed review for today.  It would be way too easy and obvious for anyone who has ever met me to know what reviews I’d give American Idiot (A, at least) or Dookie (A, at least)…so let’s dip semi-deep into the Green Day vault for Shenanigans.

It’s likely that only the most dedicated of Green Day fans have Shenanigans in their album collection, or have even heard of it for that matter.  The reason?  It’s not really an album – it’s a compilation of B-sides from the 1994-2000 era squashed together in one package.  It’s very rare for bands to have a B-sides album and even rarer for it to make much of an impression.  (Oasis’ The Masterplan is a notable exception here.)

So does Shenanigans make an impression?  Yes, but it’s a fleeting one rather than something that makes you want to go dig up every old Green Day b-side.  Let’s start with the good – there are a bevy of tracks here from 1997 that could have seamlessly fit in on the band’s excellent Nimrod.  Album opener “Suffocate” isn’t too far off from some of the lighter bouncy singles throughout the band’s career, nor is “Sick of Me”, which only lasts for all of 2:07 but never lets up during that time.  “Desensitized” is solid, although there’s no need for the opening 30 or so seconds which sound like a giant bar fight gone wrong.  (Just play the music, boys.)  But the biggest impression from this album comes from the instrumental “Espionage”, which appeared in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.  There’s a slicked-back surf-guitar type sound and a backing brass section here that wouldn’t make this totally out of place in a Bond movie.  The band may have been trying to go for a parody of Bond-esque music, especially with the nature of Bond parody in Austin Powers.  Well, mission not accomplished…this is too good for plain old parody.

But at 3:23, “Espionage” is the longest track on the album.  That’s not to say short songs make Shenanigans a bad album – just a largely forgettable album.  The 14-track collection clocks in at a Usain Bolt-like 33:23.  Hell, you could finish this thing and Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” and still have seconds left in a high school class.  The three covers here generally fall flat, with only “Outsider” from The Ramones providing a few bursts of fresh air.  Some of the tunes here (“Do Da Da”) come close to sounding like somebody doing a really good parody of Green Day.  And yes, the same chords are probably used here in every single song.

This is a bunch of songs Green Day could have churned out on autopilot – and probably did for a bunch of these tunes.  And let’s face it – there’s a reason they’re only B-sides.  The band knew its best material and assigned it as such.  If there’s one thing that frustrates me, World’s Greatest Oasis Fanboy, about Oasis’ career, it’s that so many of the band’s B-sides belonged on albums.  The group’s (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory is one of the greatest albums I’ll ever hear in my life – and it could have been even better with the inclusion of, say, “Acquiesce” or “The Masterplan” over tracks like “Hey Now.”  Thankfully, Green Day doesn’t have that same issue.  There’s no reason to listen to Shenanigans over one of the band’s studio albums, but it’s a breezy and enjoyable half-hour to throw on your iTunes if you’re in the mood, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Grade: B

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