A Different Shade of Green for ‘Foxboro’
An initial look at the seemingly ancient, vinyl-looking album cover would seem to suggest that the Foxboro Hot Tubs is just another retro band trying to capitalize on the recent garage rock revival. But after hearing the first words of the album, a familiar voice comes to mind, one that is strikingly close to that of Billie Joe Armstrong. That’s because it is Armstrong, none other than the frontman of Green Day.
Assuming another band alias – again – after disguising itself as The Network before the release of “American Idiot,” Green Day has decided to put on another mask by morphing into the Foxboro Hot Tubs for its debut album, “Stop Drop and Roll!!!” The album is a collection of songs that takes one back in time to the glory days of the British Invasion and the prime of garage rock.
The undeniably catchy lead single and standout “Mother Mary” could have been the soundtrack to your parents’ prom dance, a nostalgic musical visit down memory lane complete with a head-bobbing guitar rhythm that mirrors Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” It has a beautiful simplicity and “oohs” and “bops” to give it that extra pop zeal, elements for an ideal sing-along as Armstrong begs for a girl’s love: “Do you want to elope tonight? / Getting lost in the shadows / All dressed up like a switchblade knife / Let’s hang in love from the gallows.”
Packed with punch and attitude, “The Pedestrian” comes off as one of the more powerful tracks as its heavy low-end, accentuated by booming bass line and hard-hitting drums, give the song an extra bite to prevent it from dragging along. “27th Ave. Shuffle,” which is in no way reminiscent of Springsteen’s “The E Street Shuffle,” continues the heaviness, as evidenced by Mike Dirnt’s rumbling bass, in addition to screeching guitar bends and squealing solos. The latter of these two has an especially American feel that paints an image of the candy-stripe, jukebox diner days with youngsters wildly dancing and swinging.
Although Armstrong might be known as a pioneer pop-punk vocalist, he does a solid job of stepping outside that boundary and taking on the persona of a 1960s rock vocalist. He is in John Lennon territory, on restrained tracks such as “Red Tide” with his smooth, almost whispery, drawn-out crooning style before switching to a rougher, gritty delivery on “Broadway” that is a little closer to The Kinks’ Ray Davies.
Keeping in line with the now antiquated technique of recording to quarter-inch tape with only eight tracks, the record maintains an older, warm vintage feel that would please audiophiles still clinging on to vinyl. During these days of compressed digital formats that sometimes cram up to 100 tracks into one song, Foxboro Hot Tubs’ simpler approach is a breath of fresh air, using space rather than trying to suffocate the listener’s ears with layers upon layers of sound.
While there isn’t anything here that is groundbreaking or entirely original, the organ backdrop (think The Doors) in “Ruby Room” and the cheek-busting, frenetic trumpet solo in “Pieces of Truth” are distinguishing additions that take the record beyond the all too common guitar, bass, and drums trifecta.
In the end, it is apparent that the guys from Green Day are not trying to reinvent the wheel as Foxboro Hot Tubs. If anything, the trio is merely finding an outlet to deviate from its pop-punk norm that is constantly judged and closely scrutinized by piranha-like critics ready to tear it apart. In essence, Foxboro Hot Tubs is the sound of three guys letting loose and having fun in a way that pays homage to its musical forefathers. With the next Green Day record somewhere on the horizon, hopefully some of the raw energy that spews out on “Stop Drop and Roll!!!” will end up on there. In the meantime, Foxboro Hot Tubs will help ease the pain before it is ready to become Green Day again.