Billie Joe Armstrong is best known as the frontman for Green Day, but he’s always churned out extra music with his various side projects. He started playing with Pinhead Gunpowder in the early 1990s; he and his Green Day bandmates formed two side bands in the 2000s: The Network and Foxboro Hot Tubs. Billie Joe even teamed up with Norah Jones in 2013 to release an album of Everly Brothers covers. His latest side band is The Longshot, and after a whirlwind of sneaky Instagram posts and a surprise EP, the band just released their debut album, Love Is For Losers.
For all the Green Day fans that pine for a return to the sound of Dookie, for all those who liked Stop Drop And Roll!!! more than 21st Century Breakdown – this album is for you. Love Is For Losers sounds like a grown-up version of Dookie if Green Day hadn’t gone through the rage of Insomniac, the experimentation of Nimrod, and the acoustic maturity of Warning. Strip away the grandiose, sweeping epics of their 21st century albums – and leave behind the political overtones – and this is what the band could still sound like. (Never mind that the similar ¡Uno! and ¡Dos! weren’t as well-received as they should have been.)
Love Is For Losers takes Billie Joe and his newfound bandmates back to simpler times. The music here is straightforward garage rock, with nothing more than guitars, bass, drums, and raw energy. It’s dirty and fun. Most of the songs start or end with audible guitar static, and there are plenty of handclaps throughout. The songs are quick, too: Only two of the ten original songs clock in over 3 minutes.
The first three tracks are punchy and guitar-driven, but they play with dynamics by changing out the fullness of instrumentation and throwing in some 1950s-styled melodies and backing vocals. In fact, Bille Joe actually wrote opening track “The Last Time” for a Beatles-meets-Shakespeare musical called These Paper Bullets.
Likewise, track #4, “Body Bag,” was originally written for the movie Ordinary World; Billie Joe stars in the film, and its title track appeared on Green Day’s latest album, Revolution Radio. “Body Bag” is also the first song on Love Is For Losers to dive into uncharted territory. Instead of fast-paced rock, it’s a hazy, melancholy breakup track. Billie’s voice is heavy with reverb, creating a dreamy, slow-motion vibe for this album highlight.
The title track is another standout. “Love Is For Losers” captures the straightforward rock spirit found on most of the album, and although it feels familiar, it’s also particularly captivating. Despite its peppy sound, the lyrics and gloomy and ironic. Love is for losers, but “stupid kid, you’re a loser now” for falling in love.
The next two songs are more tongue-in-cheek and black humor. “Cult Hero” is a self-deprecating anthem, while “Kill Your Friends” is a cheery tune about mass death with those closest to you. “Happiness” continues with the musical style, but the lyrics take a turn for the poetic as Billie asks, “How lonely is your loneliness? How unhappy is your happiness?”
“Soul Surrender” is the upbeat counterpart to “Body Bag” – it features a choir of sustained vocals, lending it a nostalgic, heavenly atmosphere. The final new track here is “Turn Me Loose”. If you paid attention to The Longshot’s Instagram posts, the opening drum loop will be a welcome, familiar sound. This is one of the most enjoyable and inspired songs, and a great way to close the band’s debut album.
But not so fast! We get one last track, a gorgeous cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Goodbye To Romance,” from his own debut solo album. His song bid farewell to Black Sabbath after his departure from the band in 1979. But fret not, Green Day fans. This is not Billie’s way of saying goodbye to Green Day. Soon enough, they’ll be working on their followup to Revolution Radio, and the next chapter after God’s Favorite Band.
All in all, Love Is For Losers is straightforward and fun. It’s simplistic and singularly true to Billie Joe’s roots, but still full of hooks and familiarity that make it an enjoyable addition to his extensive catalogue. It’s not as enthralling and majestic as Green Day typically is, but sometimes all you need is some good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. On that note, The Longshot certainly delivers.
Highlights on Love Is For Losers include: “Body Bag,” “Love Is For Losers,” “Happiness,” “Sweet Surrender,” and “Turn Me Loose.”