Review: Green Day – Revolution Radio

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Absolutely no one can make a comeback quite like Green Day. Though the band have released quite a few of the most influential punk rock albums of the last few decades, the Uno, Dos, Tre experiment seemed to have set them back a few steps. The triple album set felt slapped together, brandishing an album’s worth of great songs spread between two records’ worth of B-sides and fluff. Revolution Radio is a return to form that manages to scale the mountain of expectation set by the band’s best albums: Dookie, American Idiot and arguably, 21st Century Breakdown, while cutting out the fat.

You can buy Revolution Radio on iTunes.

You can buy Revolution Radio on iTunes.

Revolution Radio is the band’s most cohesive album in nearly a decade; shorter and easier to digest than the great political operas Billie Joe Armstrong has written, the album is the perfect hybrid of the classic punk rock that made the band a worldwide phenomenon in the 90’s, and the flame tongued political warfare that arguably made them even more famous in the mid-2000’s. Revolution Radio finds the sweet groove between the rippling wall of power chord studded punk rock that Green Day made a signature sound, and the sweet taste of classic rock that found form on 21st Century Breakdown, the last great album they put out.

While Billie Joe doesn’t delve into the rock opera portion of storytelling for this newest outing, his heart is still in the same place. The result is an album that manages to take deep jabs at the politics of America, while retaining the spirit of the disenfranchised punk that personified the group early in their career.

If you know the band at all, then you already know what to expect: Billie Joe Armstrong’s guitar is a sound of nature itself. Wave after wave of his harsh power chords somehow create the most aggressive punk rock and the jauntiest pop songs known to man (“Revolution Radio”). Mike Dirnt’s bass guitar give the songs the backbone to propel them above their peers in every way, rounding out Armstong’s guitar in full sound. Tre Cool’s drumming is prolifically astute, comparable to Blink 182’s Travis Barker – not in style by any means, but that his work can draw you into the song more than the guitar can at times.

Lead single “Bang Bang” has gotten a lot of coverage of late as being written from the perspective of a mass shooter (“Bang bang! Give me fame! / Shoot me up to entertain / I am a semi-automatic lonely boy”). It is also the hardest song on the album, sporting an unrelenting wall of sound, rounded by a bouncing bass line and thundering drumming that reflects the chaotic march and tension of the act. With backing haunts of “hoorah” against the lyrics of “I want to be a celebrity martyr, the leading man in my own private drama”, “Bang Bang” brings attention to the crisis of the mass shooter as much as it does mock those individuals for falsely glamorizing the act.

“Revolution Radio” sounds (to me) like a sister song to American Idiot’s “Letterbomb” in theme if not sound. The song calls for rage, and illustrates an image of destruction while calling for truth amidst a revolution. The song sets the theme for the album, setting the pace for heavy punk guitar set against Armstrong’s poppy voice and antagonistic lyrics.

At this point in their career, it has become a joke that “Green Day songs sound the same,” but the joy in the band is hearing how they find new ways to construct their music. Opening track “Somewhere Now” borrows heavily from the classic rock aesthetic of 21st Century Breakdown, beginning with a rhythmic acoustic guitar before blasting off. Singing, “I’m running late to somewhere now I don’t want to be / Where the future and promises ain’t what it used to be / I never wanted to compromise or bargain with my soul / How did life on the wild side ever get so dull?”, Armstong seems to ask himself how punk rock became so neutral. The song keeps tempo and finds a balance between the guitar with a flourish of backing vocals and sleigh bells. The song is a perfect blend of the band calling back to one of their best albums and experimenting to make something unlike anything else on the album.

“Say Goodbye” sounds aesthetically like a spiritual successor to “East Jesus Nowhere” in terms of Tre Cool’s beat, and Armstrong’s critique on police shootings d0 just as much to throw him deeper into spirituality as “East Jesus Nowhere” did to dismiss it. “Violence on the rise / Like a bullet in the sky / Oh Lord have mercy on my soul / Kindred spirits sing for the sick and suffering.”

“Forever Now” continues the tradition of the band constructing a massive operatic song in several parts that has appeared on every project for the last decade. Much in the way that “Jesus of Suburbia” set the story of American Idiot, “Forever Now” caps off theme of Revolution Radio. Where opener “Somewhere Now” asked how the punk rock lifestyle became so dull and seemed a call to arms, “Forever Now” embraces the sound of pure punk chaos while Armstrong sings the melancholy of being a rock star in this day and age compared to where he started. “My name is Billie and I’m freaking out / I thought before I was, now I can’t really figure it out / I sit alone with my thoughts and prayers, screaming my memories as if I was never there”, before shifting tempo and theme to “If this is what you call the good life, I want a better way to die”. The song shares several themes and guitar riffs from “Somewhere Now”, with everything between supporting the acknowledgment that political punk rock is a dying art form.

Revolution Radio is the best of Green Day. There are as many call backs to their best works as there are forays into territory unknown. It’s a political album that allows enough room to find love with those who were turned away with the war against Bush in 2004. It sounds like the classic band that set the punk world on fire 20 years ago as much as it does a band decades into their career, pushing their boundaries while acknowledging who they are and being damn proud of it. Where the band may have stumbled on their triple disc experiment, Revolution Radio rights the ship and sets the course for the rest of their third comeback from the brink.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 loves Green Day more than certain family members. That said, he realizes that Uno, Dos, Tres was not the best of times. But he listens to them. Oh, how does he listen to those records with his ears and a heart of love. Even so… “Kill the DJ”? Really? Ugh…

 

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