The Context – Billie Joe Armstrong, the proverbial Prince of American Punk Rock, and his band Green Day dominated the alternative rock and pop scenes from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s. The trailblazing group has sold more than 75 million records globally, has been nominate for 20 Grammy awards (notching five victories), and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Moreover, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool, and Armstrong’s Green Day transcended strictly the music industry as their most commercially successful album American Idiot was adapted for the Broadway stage in 2010.
In spite of Green Day’s long-term cultural success, Armstrong has not hesitated to venture in side projects that often focus on covers. For instance, Armstrong’s first solo release under his name was a cover album of The Everly Brothers’ 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us entitled foreverly. The 2013 re-imagining of the staple rockabilly record was performed in collaboration with singer/songwriter Norah Jones. Armstrong more recently dabbled in artistic recreations of music with his side project The Coverups—a partnership with Green Day’s Mike Dirnt that has not formally released any music or toured but has performed sporadically in small venues since 2018.
The Content – No Fun Mondays, the latest collection of covers from Armstrong, begins with his rocking take on Tommy James and the Shondells’ 1966 bubblegum pop single “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Armstrong transitions from the beachy guitars and thumping of the 1960s opener to the more power pop sound of the 1970s with “War Stories” (originally performed by The Starjets). Following the decade chronology, Armstrong delivers another rock-infused cover of The Bangles 1986 hit “Manic Monday.” Staying in the 80s, Armstrong covers the 1983 punk rock anthem “Corpus Christi” from The Avengers. Armstrong adopts the doo-wop undertones from “I Think We’re Alone Now” on “That Thing You Do!”—the one-hit wonder from the fictional band The Wonders in the 1996 Tom Hanks film.
Don Backy’s 1963 track “Amico” gives an international flair to Armstrong’s cover list as the punk rocker sings in Italian before the array of thrusting guitars and drums. Armstrong channels Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses on his more subdued rendition of “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory.” Kim Wilde’s 1981 “Kids in America” lends itself to a nostalgic track from Armstrong. “Not That Way Anymore,” popularized by the Stiv Bators, and Eric Carmen’s “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” are another instance of fast-paced rock-infused tracks from the 70s included on the LP.
The Green Day front man honors the late great John Lennon on “Gimme Some Truth”—a track where Armstrong falters to cash-in on the punk thematics of the protest song. The new wave anthem “Whole Wide World” sees Billie Joe equipped with a dirtier production lending itself to a garage-like crooning of the Wreckless Eric staple. Armstrong’s sense of rebellion rears again on his covers of The Equals’ “Police On My Back.” Armstrong’s short rendition of Billy Bragg’s 1983 “A New England” closes the record.
The Skinny – Rather than cling to the work of one artist as was the case in foreverly, Armstrong takes on a smattering of decades-old hits on No Fun Mondays. Although the rock sound of the album is consistent and is certainly more than karaoke, the record lacks a distinct character and comes across as pedestrian. Ultimately, Billie Joe lacks the exuberant gravitas that defined his storied rock career as No Fun Mondays stands as a tepid PG-13 cover album.
The Rating – 4.7/10
No Fun Mondays
- I Think We’re Alone Now
- War Stories
- Manic Monday
- Corpus Christi
- That Thing You Do!
- You Can’t Put Your Arms Round a Memory
- Kids in America
- Not That Way Anymore
- That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Gimme Some Truth
- Whole Wide World
- Police on My Back
- A New England