There are two incredibly distinct versions of Billie Joe Armstrong. One writes rock operas that flawlessly meld biting, poetic verses and savage critiques of government. The other just loves writing pop songs. The one constant between the two is that no matter who holds the pen, Armstrong is going to belt out some absolutely killer songs designed to stay in your head. Love Is for Losers by The Longshot, his newest side project, is a band that has fun with rock and isn’t crippled with expectation.
The first thing anyone who listens to The Longshot will wonder, is why this wasn’t released as a Green Day album. The obvious answer is that Green Day is a group that seems to be aiming for higher goals. Their experiment with the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy showed that following up several critically acclaimed rock operas is difficult when the band just wants to release some pop songs without the depth of American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown. Love Is for Losers is the answer.
These songs are fun. Incredibly catchy, and packing the energy of Armstrong’s signature power chords, The Longshot is power pop at its finest. These are party songs that feel instantly familiar to anyone who has been a fan of Armstrong for more than a minute. Traces of each of his ventures can be heard in the album. “Taxi Driver” beckons the ghost of Green Day circa Nimrod. “Turn Me Loose” channels Foxboro Hot Tubs, and I’m sure you can find traces of Pinhead Gunpowder and some Bille + Norah if you look for it.
Bandmates Jeff Matika (bass), David S. Field (drums) and Kevin Preston (guitar) deliever some killer performances, but it is almost impossible not to compare them to Tre Cool or Mike Dirnst. They are obviously influenced by the other members of Green Day, and give as sincere an homage as is possible. While their performance is worthy of the influences, they give Armstrong a chance to write pop songs free of the weight of his main band on his shoulders.
What does stand out is how Armstrong’s songwriting formula shifts just slightly for The Longshot. There is a slight influence of southern rock in the guitar (“Cult Hero”). Hand claps litter the verses (“The Last Time”, “Soul Surrender”) and guitar solos run rampant just because they can. The Longshot also remind me that I miss classic Green Day, before they took on their political edge. Most of these songs could have been pulled off of Nimrod, and it’s actually refreshing to hear something like that again.
Perhaps the only downside (or upside, if you prefer) is that there is nothing lyrical to bite into. These are party songs, designed to be easy to sing along to without thinking about it. For example, the title track, “Love is for Losers” has a chorus of, “Hey kid, love is for losers now, alright / Stupid kid, you’re a loser now, alright”. While it’s nice to be able to sing along to literally any of these songs midway through the first listen, it’s upsetting to know that it is just a tease of Armstrong as a writer.
Love Is for Losers isn’t a reinvention, because it doesn’t need to be. It’s an excuse to write classic power pop songs. The Longshot is essential listening for fans of Green Day. While it is disappointing that the wit and anger that fuels Armstrong’s best writing is nowhere to be seen, songs like these are rarely written anymore. Love Is for Losers may not be anyone’s favorite album, but it’s impossible not to enjoy.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and wrote this while attempting to eat an apple. It fell off of the table after one bite and rolled under the couch, because why wouldn’t it do just that?