ALBUM REVIEW: GREEN DAY, “Revolution Radio”

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Words By: Gerrod Harris

Release Date: October 7th, 2016, via Reprise Records

Green Day’s first album since 2012’s trilogy of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!, and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s onstage meltdown – in which he stripped to the nude while going on an aggressive rant- and his subsequent stint in rehab, Revolution Radio looks to bring Green Day back to the centre of modern rock.  To celebrate the occasion, the band has embarked on a tour of clubs and small theaters.  Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, they had to cancel their Toronto stop in the Distillery District at the World Cup Of Hockey Fan Village, which led to Lenny Kravitz filling in.

Opening with a very weak track, “Somewhere Now”, the album gets off to a slow start.  The semi ballad, semi slow rocker does not kick things off with a punch, but rather sounds uninventive and tired.  “Bang Bang”, the following track, could not be any more the opposite.  Opening with sustained power chords, Mike Dirnt’s driving bass line and Tré Cool’s trademark shuffle across booming toms the song quickly bursts from the muted production to the songs gritty verse.  The chorus, instrumentally is a pure punk banger in all its simplicity, and even features a brief drum solo going into the final chorus- a definite nod towards the style of Green Day’s early work- and sports lyrics like “I am a semiautomatic lonely boy” and “give me death or give me head”. Yes! This is the Green Day we have missed!  This chorus alone catches two eras of Green Day which very rarely cross paths: social commentary which captures the issues plaguing middle class America and raunchy, sexually charged phrases.  “Bang Bang” should have been the opening track, but after listening to it, it certainly makes up for “Somewhere Now”.

Revolution Radio is an angry record.  Maybe it’s the upcoming mess of an American election which seems to bring the best out in so many artists.  And by the best, I mean the rage, aggression, and systematic frustration which rock ‘n’ roll was built on.  This is quite apparent on tracks like the aforementioned “Bang Bang”, along with “Bouncing Off The Wall”, “Too Dumb To Die”, and “Forever Now”.  It is also no coincidence that these songs are also the most true to the punk rock tradition and in line with Green Day’s material from the 1990’s.  Ultimately, it is when they are at their angriest that Green Day shine the most, and unfortunately, Revolution Radio is an album which peaks far too prematurely as “Bang Bang” is easily the best song.  The rest of the album dips and climaxes at levels which do not top the second track.  Songs like “Still Breathing”, “Outlaws”, and “Youngblood” may discuss topics which Armstrong very much leaves his opinions clearly stated on the matter, but they often lack the energy or the push that is best captured in “Bang Bang”.  In many cases they are a bit too poppy for their own good which seems to detract from the overarching themes and punk rock aesthetic.

Revolution Radio captures Green Day at a very interesting point in their career.  In many ways, due to the gap in their recording history, it is almost as if they have to prove themselves to the world yet again, to show that they aren’t yesterday’s news.  This is quite apparent across the record.  In many ways, this is the most energetic and inspired Green Day have sounded since 2004’s American Idiot.  In many ways, that was where Green Day shifted the most from their 90’s punk origins to embrace modern pop punk along with trends which had never been heard from the amps of a punk band.  Revolution Radio picks up where American Idiot left off, ignoring much of the work the band did afterwards.  If American Idiot was a transitional period for what would become the band’s new sound throughout the 2000’s and early 2010’s, Revolution Radio puts the band back into such a place of transition emerging from the 2000’s persona of pop punk and teetering towards their edgy and punk fueled origins.  While the members of Green Day are only in their 40’s, it becomes difficult to convey a sense of authenticity to the nature of punk rock as one gains age and substantial wealth.  Very few have been able to do so.  As a musician, there is also the desire to break out of the labels which others have placed on you.  Both American Idiot and Revolution Radio see a band embracing both of these facts and using them to move forward into what could be considered experimentally territory for a punk. Could we one day see a return to Green Day’s grimy and provocative roots? With Revolution Radio sitting on the fence, it is very well a possibility.  While not their best work, Revolution Radio is the bands best collection of material in over a decade and will make you remember why you loved these three punks from East Bay, California.  In many ways, despite at times feeling rather hit and miss, it is as vintage as it is modern; a record that opens up a new and welcomed chapter for Green Day to balance the tricky identity of punk rock in today’s modern world.  While not a bad album in the slightest- in fact, at times it can be great- Green Day’s comeback falls short of the revolution their latest album promises by embracing norms and expectations rather than rejecting them in a coup de grace of punk rock ecstasy.

Track Listing:

1: Somewhere Now

2: Bang Bang

3: Revolution Radio

4: Say Goodbye

5: Outlaws

6: Bouncing Off The Walls

7: Still Breathing

8: Youngblood

9: Too Dumb To Die

10: Troubled Times

11: Forever Now

12: Ordinary World

Watch the music video for “Bang Bang”:

Watch the lyric video for “Revolution Radio”:

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