Get your pitchforks ready and hold on to your butts; Green Day, the least-punk punk band, are back with a new album.
Revolution Radio, the band’s twelfth studio album, is an album that is, whether intentionally or not, all about scaling back. This means that the excessive theatricality of 21st Century Breakdown and the overly eager ambition of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tre! have been toned down into manageable pieces. Hell, the band even scaled back their lineup, with fourth member Jason White returning to touring member status. On paper (or on your screen, I guess), Revolution Radio sounds like the back-to-basics album that Green Day fans have been waiting for, which is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, the answer is a great, resounding “eh.”
For what it’s worth, Green Day does an admirable job for the most part, it just doesn’t all stick. The second half is chock-full of power pop jams (“Bouncing Off the Walls” and “Youngblood” are fun and stupid- just what you want from a Californian band, and “Still Breathing” is the best mid-2000’s pop punk ballad that Good Charlotte wish they had written), but the album also contains the mostly forgettable “Trouble Times” and the snoozer “Outlaws”. Much like the trilogy, this album is consistent in its inconsistency, but at a third of the total runtime, this one is much easier to digest.
Revolution Radio is bookended (and dog-eared mid-way through) by tracks that tackle growing old and not really knowing how to rage against time, making it a much more prevalent theme than the supposed inspiration of the album. In the process of dealing with his age, Armstrong drops lines like “I put the “riot” in Patriot” and “I shop online so that I can vote at the speed of light,” haphazardly crossing the line between stupid and clever to the point where you’re not really sure which side of the line is which. It’s a little more clear in the grand finale, as it were, when he delivers his classic apathy: “Oh I want to start a revolution. I want to hear it on my radio. I’ll put it off another day.”
The real lyrical disappointment here is the album’s title track- a song allegedly inspired by Armstrong joining a Black Lives Matters protest in NYC, though you wouldn’t know it by listening to the lyrics. It’s wonderful to see mainstream artists use their celebrity platform to inform their audiences, but rather than use any sort of reference or incident to BLM, “Revolution Radio” becomes more or less an Anti-Flag song- a call to arms with lots of slogans but very little else. On the other hand, the follow up track, “Say Goodbye,” makes direct references to Flint, MI (“teach our children well, from the bottom of the well”) and Ferguson, MO (“The city of damage control, this is how we… roll”), and is everything that the title track should be. On a similarly dark note, lead single “Bang Bang” is a satirical look at how American media turns mass shooters into celebrities from the point of view of someone who wants to participate in murder for their 15 minutes. It’s fucked up- but it’s also one of Armstrong’s best song topics in years (and a bit reminiscent of The Offspring’s “Hammerhead”).
Revolution Radio might not be the album to relaunch the band back into American Idiot-levels of success like it has been promoted as, but there’s nothing particularly offensive either and it’s still worth a listen or two for the morbidly curious. In short, Green Day made a Green Day record.
3.5 / 5 Stars
RIYL: The Who, Elvis Costello, The Offspring
P.S. The album also ends with a song titled “Ordinary World,” which you might recognize as the title of the movie that stars Billie Joe Armstrong as an aging punk rocker who never made it big. It’s a short, acoustic ditty and adds nothing to the record. It feels like it was tacked on at the end with no real purpose other than to promote the movie, much like how this final paragraph was tacked on to the end of this review with no real purpose other than to say “hey, this song exists.”