Review Summary: Flawed but a step into the right direction…
Stuck at a crossroad between what older and newer fans ask for, Green Day have had a heavy burden to carry ever since American Idiot
sky-rocketed them back to stardom in 2004. Front man Billie Joe Armstrong always had lofty goals, however, a certain restraint was removed with that LP. Channeling The Who, among other genre classics like Hüsker Dü or The Clash, he orchestrated a successful rock opera that became a blueprint for both peers as well as the band itself. As the singles oversaturated the audience during the mid ‘00s, a 5-year wait for fresh material pushed expectations through the roof. In 2009, delivering an overly dramatic & chaotic follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown
felt a bit too wiredrawn, although it became another multi-platinum addition to their catalog. Next laid a tough decision: either a return to roots or go even bigger. Biting more than they could chew, the guys took a step in both directions, offering a triple collection of straightforward material sharing a placid production. Of course there was too much to take in for casual fans, not to mention the quality was lacking. Had they written Uno! Dos! Tre!
during their golden period in the mid-‘90s, the chances to pull such an endeavor would have been considerably higher. Furthermore, BJ’s meltdown at the 2012 iHeart Radio Festival stalled all promotional activity around the release dates, cancelled tour dates, thus leaving people to discover the songs on their own.
Four years later, after a solid period of gestation, Green Day reacted differently to the same tough decision. With sober minds and caution, they retraced back to Oakland, built a small studio and crafted Revolution Radio
by themselves. Luckily for us, the album reflects more than brags. There was significant speculation over the past year, nevertheless, little details were known about the project’s direction. So, the moment ‘Bang Bang’ was dropped, the band made clear they regained that missing grit. From the spastic bass line to the manic chord progression, I am happy to say this was the most exciting single I’ve heard from the gang ever since ‘American Idiot’ saw the light of day. Clearly an inspiration, this pummeling tune discusses gun violence & mass media in a time when their negative influences seem to peak.
Overall, the entire album seems to split politics, social commentaries, along with more personal subjects such as finally coming to terms with midlife (a subject only Tre!
seemed to hint at). Cuts like ‘Too Dumb to Die’, ‘Forever Now’, ‘Bouncing Off the Wall’ or the title track are classic Green Day. All of them boast driving riffs that mainly blend the likes of Nimrod
to a certain extent. Fast forward to 2016, such moments have been sorely missed. ‘Too Dumb to Die’ starts slow, but kicks in full form describing someone who’s basically a lost cause, but gets along. The catchy chorus brings out a bit of nostalgia for those who follow them since the ‘90s. ‘Bouncing Off the Wall’ and ‘Revolution Radio’ bite through their powerful guitars, marching drum patterns (found on the latter), gang vocals and sharp lyrics. Everything is tightly constructed on tried and tested formulas, thus putting them back on track after a long while.
Meanwhile, ‘Troubled Time’ is a mid-tempo rocker that succeeds in sending a succinct message by cutting all extravagance and pointing directly at the issues. There’s a suitable, bittersweet tone in the music driving along, yet it doesn’t sag. ‘Say Goodbye’ echoes ‘Holiday’, still it comes across as a nice ditty that can stand on its own. Playful guitars guide Billie’s welcomed croons, whereas all the claps & oohs and aahs create a campy vibe ironically set to the war-themed lyrics. Since it runs throughout the album, familiarity describes best my opinion on Revolution Radio
. There is a substantial amount of moments where you’re transposed to previous eras of the band’s existence, yet this feature also acts as a downside. The test for us seems to be the redundant's separation from the interesting. ‘Ordinary World’ and ‘Still Breathing’ are the most vulnerable tunes, mainly due to weak lyrics. The music isn’t bad, but the former asks for a heavier subject (‘Macy’s Day Parade’ would be a good example for a better direction), while ‘Still Breathing’ is too light for its own good. Moreover, ‘Youngblood’ continues a trademark praise we’ve heard on ‘She’s a Rebel’, ‘Last of the American Girls’, 'Viva la Gloria', ‘Drama Queen’, etc. Combining the ugly (guns, drugs, alcohol) with the nice and cool (stars, moons, suns, the spirit of a fighter), Armstrong still manages to twist these subjects to make new songs, even though I believe he exhausted them quite a while ago. I miss the more down-to-earth approach he had before American Idiot
. There are examples here, which I am happy to find, but not enough to rule out this downside. I hope he switches back for upcoming records, as common subjects benefit the simple music, unlike all pretentiousness displayed over the past decade.
All in all, I must admit Revolution Radio
fares better than I (and many others) expected. Though there are several issues that inevitably drag it down, this is a good record that finally proves the band is willing to move upward. When you become a stadium act, it is very hard to return to the ground and usually that is the point where most acts fall on their nose. Green Day learned their lesson and look forward to get back in the game. As a result, this record is for those who have some patience with them, not the ones quick to point only missteps then dismiss this.