A few thoughts about The Network’s second album, Money Money 2020 Part II: We Told Ya So!
Wait A Minute, Who Are You? The Network is (not so secretly) a new-wave/synth-punk side project of Green Day. Seventeen years ago, the band quietly released Money Money 2020, and even though it was pretty obvious that the Network was the legendary pop-punk trio in disguise, the members of Green Day have openly refuted the connection for years, with Billie Joe Armstrong saying: “All I gotta say is fuck The Network. These guys are totally spreading rumors.” That kind of playful denouncement/fake rivalry between the “two bands” has persisted (for better or worse) throughout the years to the release of this new collection of Network songs.
Take A Chance: The Network’s songs and musical ideas would never fly on a Green Day album, but as a side-project, they’re pretty decent. If you haven’t heard of the Network before: imagine Green Day with more bizarre but direct and culturally relevant lyrics, the heavy inclusion of synthesizers, and a more dead-pan delivery. It’s nice to see a band who’s been around for 30+ years take more out-of-the-box chances and stretch themselves creatively in a mildly entertaining and productive way. Of course, no one expects a Network album to be anything more than an interesting deviation from the norm for a band that’s been increasingly stale and predictable since American Idiot, but there is an argument that this record is the most interesting that Billie Joe Armstrong + crew have released in over a decade. All three Green Day members take their stab at lead vocals here, but it’s the songs where Armstrong (Fink) takes the lead that stand out, such as “Theory of Reality,” “Fentanyl,” “Cancer is the New Black” and the faux-Ramones vocal style of “Ivankkka is a Nazi.” Other highlights include the Tre Cool led “Asphyxia” and “Flat Earth.” All of these songs are head and shoulders better than anything on Green Day’s last studio effort, Father of All.
Double Your Fun: Just because the Network are an interesting side project with some relatively unique ideas, that doesn’t mean that we need a 25-track, 55 minute double album that loses a lot of steam and (for the most part) originality after about 20 minutes. I don’t think anyone in the world was clamoring for songs like “Hey Elon” – a Tre Cool sung ballad which describes how Elon Musk drains the battery in his spaceship by leaving the radio on, “Popper Punk” where Armstrong repeats the words “Amyl Nitrate” in a heavy British accent for three minutes, or the “Kill the DJ” rewrite “Jerry Falwell’s Pool Party.” Can someone tell Green Day to just release normal length albums and take out all the very obvious filler? Clearly, they have no trouble coming up with content, but you have to wonder about their quality control.
Here We Go Again: The Network’s first album came at what was (to that point) the lowest point in the Green Day’s career. They had just released Warning, which underperformed commercially, and had just put out a greatest hits album and a B-side compilation. There was significant internal friction within the band at that point, and there were serious talks about breaking up. While they decided to press forward as a group, their planned follow up to Warning, Cigarettes and Valentines was stolen from the studio. Could you blame them for wanting to blow off some steam as a mysterious new-wave band? Of course, the inspired American Idiot followed the next year, and the Network as a group disappeared for nearly two decades. Is the Network’s re-emergence a sign of good things to come from their main project? (probably not, but hey, anything is possible).