Looking back, I may have gone too easy on Green Day‘s trio of albums released in 2012 when I reviewed them. But hey, that was in the first few months of me having a blog so I hadn’t found my comfort in objectiveness quite yet. Really what happened was Green Day got a little too comfortable and loose and did something that many people just didn’t get. But unlike 21st Century Breakdown before it, this time Green Day didn’t get much support. I think this grounded the band, particularly Billie Joe Armstrong, and the band subsequently took a four year break from recording. Their return to the record shelves was a few weeks ago with the release of Revolution Radio. Did the band make the most of their break?
What I did like about the 2012 trio of albums was the lack of pianos and keyboards and such that overtook a few songs on 21st Century Breakdown. I mean, I love the dramatic songs of 21st Century Breakdown, but people seemed to have negative opinions towards the change, and I thought Green Day responded well with sticking mostly to just guitar, bass and drums on three full albums worth of songs. I think if they compiled the twelve or thirteen best ideas from those albums into one album, it would have made for one hell of an album. I can say that they did not make this mistake with Revolution Radio.
Still sticking with the three main essential Green Day instruments, Revolution Radio is a breath of fresh air, particularly in most of the first few tracks. Opening track Somewhere Now has a 90s feel to it. Not necessarily Green Day’s 90s stuff, but just the general sound of the song sounds like it could have belonged in the 90s. Something about the song’s mix of acoustic and electric guitars brings me back to the kind of songs I’d hear on the radio as a kid.
The lead single Bang Bang has grown on me since I first heard it on the radio, but I’d still consider it to be the weakest song off of Revolution Radio. I get what Green Day are doing though, making a fast punk-like song to open the minds of listeners into realizing that this isn’t the Green Day of the past seven or so years, nor is it a completely new and revitalized Green Day, but rather a Green Day that has a good idea of what fans want; a cross between American Idiot and Dookie. I’m certainly not saying the whole album delivers that kind of dynamic, but Bang Bang sure does, topped off with a main riff all too similar to the riff played during the breakdown of the American Idiot track St. Jimmy.
I’ll go straight to admitting that I love the next few tracks more than a lot of past Green Day songs. The title track Revolution Radio was the first indication that this could possibly be one of the best albums Green Day has ever released. The song’s fast pace and subtle influence of music and melodies from the 60’s and 70’s as well as songs well beyond Billie Joe Armstrong‘s time are all things that have made so many of Green Day’s best songs just that. This song and the ones that follow have no shortage of that, especially the melody. Say Goodbye is a rock anthem like many the band has made in the past that can get anyone moving, while Outlaws is just the perfect slow and powerful tune, with just enough cliché to the point that it doesn’t sound overdone, but familiar enough so that its hooks hit you right where it matters.
Youngblood, Troubled Times and especially Still Breathing have potential to become modern Green Day classics thanks to the effort put into their melodies. Even songs on Revolution Radio that probably won’t go on to be classics such as Bouncing Off The Wall, Too Dumb To Die and the acoustic closing track Ordinary World have something incredibly special to them that tickles the ear drums.
Green Day continue a newer tradition by having a multi-parted song on Revolution Radio. They did it twice on American Idiot, and subtly did it a couple of times on 21st Century Breakdown and on iTre!, the third album in their 2012 trilogy. This time they do it with the song Forever Now, which starts with a portion titled I’m Freaking Out that leads into A Better Way To Die and finally ending with a reprise of the opening track Somewhere Now. The reprise takes up almost the entire second half of the almost seven minute song. I wish this wasn’t the case as the first two parts of the song are completely solid tracks that don’t sound at all out of place on this album, but they’re crammed into just under four minutes to make room for the song we’ve already heard on the album.
Regardless Forever Now does to Revolution Radio what Homecoming did for American Idiot in giving a conclusion to this album’s concept story (Billie Joe Armstrong states this album is about “the culture of mass shooting that happens in America mixed with narcissistic social media”) only in not quite epic a way. And just like on American Idiot, the album is brought home with a slower song that kind of sounds like it’s resonated from the dark and harsh themes of the songs before it and shows a light at the end of the tunnel.
Green Day have a huge legacy behind them. They will almost definitely never top what they’ve done before, but as long as they remain one of the top rock bands in the world that are still going, there is always the possibility of coming close. I believe Revolution Radio does in fact come close to their best stuff. They really go back to where a lot of their current success comes from – American Idiot – and the result is an album that’s magical for pretty much all the same reasons. It speaks to its listeners and tells a story, but the music isn’t lost in the story that’s being told. The result is perhaps the best album released all year and one of Green Day’s absolute best.
Thanks for reading!
10 (Out of 10)
|6.||Bouncing Off the Wall||2:40|
|9.||Too Dumb to Die||3:23|
|11.||Forever Now: I. I’m Freaking Out/II. A Better Way To Die/III. Somewhere Now (Reprise)||6:52|