American Idiot did the unthinkable for Green Day: it made them respectable. Arriving at the mid-point of the 2000s, it was the quintessential big important rock protest record of the George W. Bush era, embraced by listeners who never bothered with the neo-punk trio before, listeners who now turned to the group as some kind of voice of a generation -- an impression only heightened by their duet with U2, a veritable passing of the torch that raised expectations for the sequel to American Idiot. Sensible punks that they are, Green Day opened the escape hatch and bolted, creating new identity as the Foxboro Hot Tubs, an unabashed old-fashioned garage rock band with a debut called Stop Drop and Roll!!! seemingly designed to play nonstop on Little Steven's Underground Garage Radio for all of 2008.
Foxboro Hot Tubs are no run of the mill ravers, bashing out the same three chords, pushing too hard with modern digital stomp boxes. True, Stop Drop and Roll!!! is a touch cleaner and punchier than the real relic, but the trio has the right swagger and sensibility, right down to how they brazenly lift the riffs and chords from classic after classic. Most of these classics all come from Britain, something that should be no surprise, as Billie Joe Armstrong has long sung with an affected Brit accent, while the Kinks fueled their transitional album, Warning, but the nifty thing about Foxboro Hot Tubs is that by laying bare their debt to the Kinks, the Yardbirds, and the Who they sound akin to such '60s rockers as the Shadows of Knight, American bands who wanted to rock like the Brits. And there's no escaping that sense of history on Stop Drop and Roll!!!, not with its cleverly kitschy LP graphics bringing to mind any number of '60s LPs (not to mention Sundazed's excellent Garage Beat compilations), or how the band consciously rewrites classic after classic here, basing "Sally" on "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone," "Alligator" on "You Really Got Me," "Dark Side of Night" on "Heart Full of Soul," "Red Tide" on "Tired of Waiting for You," or opening "27th Ave. Shuffle" with the same blast of guitars-and-drums as the Who's "Run Run Run." These play as impish thievery, perhaps even a bit of a writing exercise to shake Green Day out of their doldrums, but the great thing about these tunes is that they're not rip-offs, they're genuinely new songs built upon familiar sounds, which is the essence of garage rock (or any traditional music, which is pretty much what garage is in 2008). Even better, every one of the 12 tracks here are genuinely terrific; they are that trickiest of songs, ones that sound exceedingly simple but only get better on repeated plays. And it's easy to play Stop Drop and Roll!!! repeatedly, as its relentless march of under-three-minute songs is positively addictive. As sheer rock & roll, Green Day hasn't been this much fun in years. Whether or not that makes Foxboro Hot Tubs' Stop Drop and Roll!!! a "better" record than American Idiot is purely a matter of taste, whether you want to hear the most important band in the world or the coolest band in the world. But it is funny that this style of music, for not being "important," somehow sounds just as good 40 years after its inception as it did at the moment of its birth.