Review Summary: An album that rivals A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion as being GR's best, Operation Phoenix is a great melodic hardcore punk album with great lyrics.
Ask a Good Riddance fan what their favorite album is. It generally varies. Ask them Good riddance's best crafted album. The answer is usually split between their 1996 classic, A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion, or 1999's Operation Phoenix. Operation Phoenix was GR's full transformation into a hardcore punk band. Experimenting with the style on past albums, it seemed ineveitble they were were moving towards hardcore, especially after the release of Ballads from the Revolution.
Operation Phoenix was produced by Bill Stevenson, the drummer of the legendary punk band the Descendents
. The production quality of Operation Phoenix is very well done, and is just as good as any other major label band. The music, however, is the quite the opposite of anything you would hear on MTV or the radio. GR has always been a band hell-bent on getting their messages across, but here, they're playing like they've never played before. The instruments are tight, and the singing is Russ Rankin in his prime.
If I had one word to describe this album, it would be angry. Whether the songs are really fast and heavy or slow and melodic, the lyrics represent the mind of a pissed off, socially conscious person. The album opens with a sound excerpt from a Martin Luther King Speech. then starts the memorable guitar riff of "Shadows of Defeat." The opening song still sounds like GR, but it doesn't sound like past GR songs. This song alone is evident in the changes for the band.
Operation Phoenix is mainly a hardcore punk album, and there are tons of songs on here that will make any hardcore punk fan get at least some sort of pleasure. Songs like Blueliner", "Eighteen Seconds", S**t Talking Capitalists", "Heresy, Hypocrisy and Revenge", "Dear Cammi" and "Yesterday Died - Tomorrow Won't Be Born" are GR at their more hardcore, heavily resembling older hardcore bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. "Second Coming" is a standout track, even if it is a cover song. Its also hard to forget about "30 Day Wonder", which is one of their best known songs.
Despite being a hardcore album, GR always seems to fit in a lot of melodic songs that go along with hardcore assault. Songs like "The Hardest Part", "Self-Fullfilling Catastrophe" and "Letters Home" are melodically enchanced punk rock songs. Unlike past albums, it seems GR left out the pop punk songs. The closest song resembling a pop punk song would be "Letters Home", but the intro/outro and lyrics make the song dark and relatable.
GR's lyrics usually speak of polical wrongs in the world. Operation Phoenix is very well written in that regard, referencing the band's stance against capitalism ("Sh*t Talking Capitalists"), the criminal ways leaders get control and support ("Winning the Hearts and Minds"), war and protesting ("Article IV") and adults forcing their political agendas onto their children ("Indoctrination"). GR also gets into social issues, like abuse ("Eighteen Seconds"), self anger from rivalries ("Heresy, Hypocrisy and Revenge") and relationships turning for the worse ("The Hardest Part"). "Letters Home" details the common dilemna of caring for and loving some more than they do for you, and the depressing question of "why not?"
Operation Phoenix contains sound excerpts before songs play, much like bands like Lagwagon and No Use for a Name were doing at the time. These sound excerpts range from real life speeches to propaganda films to random cult and independent films.
Operation Phoenix was Good Riddance's 2nd masterpiece. It contains heavy hardcore punk with some melody mixed in, while still containing deep and dark lyrics AND still being catchy.