The Network is a strange New Wave-esque band that appeared in 2003. They have only released one album to date. Oh, and they are also Green Day’s side project. For a while the guys claimed that they had no idea who The Network were, but anyone with eyes and ears could tell it was them. Either way, this odd album is a lot of fun if you don’t take it too seriously. A lot of the songs are weird and sound like they’re from 1983, but there are a lot of short and sweet fun tracks here that will have you singing along no matter how ridiculous the lyrics are.
One thing fans should note about the album is that Mike Dirnt does most of the vocals for the songs. This is interesting because he manages to sound like the most prevalent alt rock and new wave singers of the 80’s. On the opening track “Joe Robot” he manages to sound like both Peter Murphy of Bauhaus and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. On “Spastic Society” not only are the vocals reminiscent of Devo, but it actually sounds like something they would sing. Either the guys have a secret love for New Wave or they wanted to see what it would sound like if they weren’t a rock band. A lot of the songs have elements of New Wave, such as synthesizers and odd riffs that stick in your head. On some tracks they really make it work. On others, the result is weird and kind of awkward.
Aside from the sound, another thing you’ll notice about the album are the overarching themes. Just about all of the songs deal with space alien robots. “Reto” deals with a sentient computer it seems, while “Supermodel Robot” is exactly what you think it’s about: sexy fembots that sci-fi nerds dream of building. When the songs aren’t dealing with mechanical men, they are dealing with low life junkies. The best song on the album “Spike” maps out two phone calls put in by Brandon AKA Spike looking for his next fix. The song is so cool because it’s based around these conversations, so there’s a spoken word style going on. Also, the chorus of “I need a fix” is simple, to the point, and punchy enough to get stuck in your head. “Love and Money” is another simple song dealing with a junkie trying to get his hands on the smack he believes he needs. Not only are the songs great, they’re interesting because they give the listener a peak into the lives of these loser drug addicts.
Tre Cool takes over vocal duties on a couple of songs, but the one where it fell flat was “Hungry Hungry.” The music starts out great with this strange synth riff ripped from the 80’s, but the odd wavering vocals took me out of the song. I don’t know what it is about this song that it doesn’t work, but it just doesn’t. Maybe it’s because he sort of sounds like Thomas Dolby. Not really sure what it is, but there are stronger songs on the album. The one track that sounds like it could be on a Green Day album if tweaked a bit is “Roshambo.” It has those classic Billie Joe Armstrong sweet vocals. Even the subject of not having anything to believe in fits in with one of their records. But the frantic pace of the 8-bit like music and the odd breathing occurring in the background makes it perfect for this album.
The one song that stood out, not because it was so good, but because it’s so damn weird is “X-Ray Hamburger.” What I thought was funny about the track is how it starts out bleak and dark like something from Sisters of Mercy or Bauhaus, but then the chorus comes and as they begin singing “Burnt so beneath the light/X-ray hamburgers tonight” you realize you have no idea what the fuck the song is about. It’s as if they’re making light of those dark, depressing song from 80’s alt rock bands. It’s not the best track from the album, but it’s worth a listen. To round out the album, the guys cover The Misfits’ “Teenagers from Mars” giving it this weird, sci-fi punk vibe. For anyone not familiar with the song, you may think it’s an original. They really do a great job of making the track fit in with the rest of the record.
Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. Though a lot of the songs are weird as hell and some of them just don’t work, the record is fun as hell. The tracks are catchy, have interesting spaced out music, and new wave vocals that will put you in the mood for Devo. This album seems like it was a way for them to blow off some steam before their next big release and they actually made it work. It’s not the best material they’ve ever put out, but at least it’s fun. It would be interesting to hear what another album from these guys would sound like, but maybe it’s best if they left it as one and remain as mysterious as they believe they are.