No one wants to watch Green Day grow up. Back in 1994, three bratty California kids named their breakout album Dookie and tossed off musical Molotov cocktails, sawing off punk's rough edges and selling the pop-injected remains to suburban malcontents as slices of rebellion. The thrill lay in being 16 and giggling at the barely bleeped-out "fucks" on the radio. These guys were intellectual Neanderthals and con artists, but they knew what it meant to be young, bored, and violently jaded. Now they're just old.
Warning is a coming-of-age record from a band that should never have come of age. Taking a cue from the two resonant tracks on 1997's Nimrod, these 12 songs fuse the Stray Cat strut of "Hitchin' a Ride" with the acoustic balladry of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" without the trainwreck dynamics of the former or the emotional resonance of the latter. What emerges is lifeless, cookie-cutter pop-punk. "Church on Sunday" offers lame romance, "Hold On" rips off the harmonica riff from "Love Me Do," and the title track strikes an obviously forced fuck-authority pose. Tracks such as "Fashion Victim," "Jackass," and "Waiting" are merely interchangeable, midtempo snoozers designed to fill up space. "Minority" manages to rock convincingly and mimic iconoclast dogma, but it only sets up the D-grade Matthew Sweet yarn "Macy's Day Parade." "I'm thinking 'bout the only road/The one I've never known/And where it goes" frontman Billie Joe Armstrong intones. Drop it, please. Bad Religion hangs on by refusing to break stride or character, but Green Day's aimless soul-searching only demonstrates why Blink-182 burst on the scene and stole the potty-mouthed nimrod pop-punk mantle from Green Day. It hurts when your fans get dramatically older, but it's devastating when you do.