The iconic pop punk trio Green Day have been in a bit of a rut musically the past few years. Their 2004 smash hit comeback American Idiot left fans and critic as to what could possibly be their next step. Their follow-up, 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown, treaded much of the same ground. It was a decent listen, but it felt more forced, and was more expected than American Idiot. The trilogy of albums they released in 2012, Uno, Dos, and Tre were not only received with mixed opinion, from fans and critics alike, but they also didn’t sell well. This was probably due to the sheer amount of music that was dropped at one time (there’s probably one great album’s worth of material in the trilogy, it’s just too much), and the supporting tour’s cancellation due to Billie Joe Armstrong’s admission to rehab for substance abuse.
Now that it’s been several years, it looks like the band has made it through their troubled times (a song title on this new record). Yes, Revolution Radio is another political album, though this year who can really blame them. The difference between this one, and the band’s past few records, is that it feels sincere. Whereas 21st Century Breakdown was a bit overwrought, and the trilogy felt forced and hollow, Revolution Radio actually provides the sense that the band is doing just what they want, how they want to. It results in easily their best record since American Idiot over a decade ago.
Revolution Radio abandons the sounds of grandiose scope of rock operas, and candy-coated pop in favor of a more straightforward rock record. It’s pretty often loud, fast, and catchy, with a rough mixing that more often works than it hinders. Songs like “Bang Bang” which is from the perspective of a mass shooter, and the title track are engaging, virulent punk tracks, reminiscent of their classic ‘90s material. The band hasn’t lost its penchant for ballads either, with the opener “Somewhere Now” sounding like it could have been off of American Idiot, while the heartfelt “Still Breathing” treads new territory. Other tracks range from playfully catchy, like “Bouncing off the Walls,” and “Youngblood,” to angrily dark like “Say Goodbye”. Sure, a lot of the lyrics can be pretty cheesy, but the music sounds good. It has an engaging sincerity too it. The album ultimately feels like a cohesive greatest hits of sounds from throughout their career, while simultaneously treading a little new ground, and providing a relevant examination of modern violence.
Green Day has become the band it’s fun to hate, but I don’t think it’s really warranted. The band has an impressive ability to bounce back, recoup losses, and reestablish themselves. I don’t expect Revolutionary Radio to match their previous heights, but managing to create good, enjoyable, and relevant music this deep into a prolific career is an accomplishment all its own.