In October, California punk icons and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Green Day released their 12th studio album: Revolution Radio. It has since surged to the top of the album charts in the UK and America, making it only the third Green Day album to do so. Read on for an exclusive track-by-track review…
It’s hardly the explosive start you might expect from Green Day’s comeback. The atmospheric strains of a single guitar accompany the wistful opening verse – “I’m running late to somewhere now/ I don’t want to be” – perhaps recalling the directionless nature of 2012’s ill-fated trilogy. This understated beginning soon gives way to the big guitars and drums that have defined Green Day’s sound since American Idiot, not to mention the first political commentary of the album: “I put the riot in patriot” wrestles some sense of national pride away from Donald Trump and the Alt-Right.
Clips from news reports on terrorism lead directly into Tre Cool’s effortless floor-tom pattern on the album’s lead single. Reminiscent of the American Idiot deep cut ‘St Jimmy’, this is undoubtedly the most aggressive song on Revolution Radio, and also the best. Despite some liberal media outlets criticising such a direct confrontation of mass shootings in the USA, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Green Day. Billie Joe Armstrong has stated publicly his discomfort at getting into the mind-set of these criminals, and with lines like “Bang Bang, give me fame/ Shoot me up to entertain” and “I want to be a celebrity martyr/ The leading man in my own private drama” you can certainly see why.
Revolution Radio’s title track is the first of the album to channel 1990s Green Day. “Scream/ With your hands up in the sky, like you want to testify” references the Black Lives Matter movement, so the undercurrents are political, but musically, this track is all about the soaring chorus, full with the catchy hooks that launched Green Day’s career.
Unfortunately, this is where the album sinks for the first time. ‘Say Goodbye’ is reminiscent of 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown in all the wrong ways.; It sounds like it was written to fill an arena and, as such, it lacks substance despite a valiant attempt to tackle America’s crisis of police brutality.
The band have described ‘Outlaws’ as a sequel to Kerplunk fan-favourite ‘Christie Road’: it even contains a direct reference to the spot where Billie Joe and Mike passed the time in their teenage years – “I found a knife by the railroad track/ You took a train and you can’t go back”. Another memorable chorus provides the backdrop for some reflection on Green Day’s musical and personal journey since the success of American Idiot (“We destroyed suburbia, when we were outlaws”), a process that has finally delivered on the weight of expectation that has burdened them for the last 12 years.
Bouncing Off the Wall
This is the one song on the album that may sate the appetite of those fans who have dissatisfied with every Green Day release since Dookie. Complete with catchy hooks. “Hey!” being shouted aplenty and a chorus that, in true Green Day style, is vague enough to mean something (“It’s all that I want and I want to be free/ I’ve got Satan riding next to me”). This was one of the last songs to make the cut, but it’s destined to be a live highlight.
Many fans didn’t know what to think of this song when it was first released for one reason. It doesn’t sound like Green Day. But once you accept the contemporary-pop sound, it’s actually a very good track, and obviously deeply personal to Billie Joe. “I’m still breathing on my own” is a simple line, yet it will resonate with anyone who has followed his recent battle with addiction. Based on this alone, there’s nothing to be worried about.
Nothing screams Green Day more than a love song that travels at 100mph, and that is what’s on offer here with Billie Joe’s elated ode to his wife of over 20 years, Adrienne. If sequels are something of a theme for Revolution Radio, then Youngblood could easily be seen alongside ‘She’ (from 1994’s Dookie) as another chapter to the musical story of their relationship.
Too Dumb To Die
It sometimes feels like Green Day are trying to wipe the trilogy of albums they released in 2012 from the collective memory. However, the music they were writing then definitely influenced this track, and that isn’t a criticism. The subject of the band members’ adolescence reappears in a catchy track that channels Uno gem ‘Stay The Night’. If Green Day are trying to reach out to a new generation of fans, as Blink-182 did so successfully this year with California, then relatable lines like “Too scared to dream, but too dumb to die” will surely help.
‘Troubled Times’ may well be the darkest moment of the album. Such a title alongside a chorus that simply states “We live in troubled times” would be a bad cliché, if it weren’t for the current election cycle in the USA. Lyrically, this track is a highlight – “What good is love and peace on Earth when it’s exclusive? / Where’s the truth in the written word when no one reads it?”
As soon as the running time of nearly 7 minutes was released, fans and critics alike rushed to label it as a new ‘Jesus of Suburbia’. While that momentous anthem will never be matched, ‘Forever Now’improves on disjointed Tre number ‘Dirty Rotten Bastards’, which clocked in at a similar length. There’s a lot going on here, and it reportedly took Billie Joe weeks to craft this version of the song, which involves two original movements and an effective reprise of ‘Somewhere Now’. This fitting finale, characterised by apathy (“I want to start a revolution/ I want to hear it on my radio/ And put it off another day”), brings the album full circle.
The album’s understated, acoustic conclusion was written for the film of the same name which stars Billie Joe in the leading role. Every Green Day album since Nimrod has included at least one song comparable in style to ‘Ordinary World’. This one is no ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’, but it will stick in the mind longer than anything they have released since ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’.
Must-Listens: ‘Bang Bang’, ‘Outlaws’, ‘Bouncing Off the Wall’.