Having grown up with Green Day, I found it particularly hard to come to terms with Billie Joe’s self-destruction, in 2012, at the hands of alcohol and prescription pills, resulting in a lengthy stint at rehab. What followed was a trilogy of albums; ¡Uno! ¡Dos! and ¡Tre! despite some gems, they were rather spineless.
Fast forward four years, Billie opens the album on his acoustic guitar reminiscing about his struggles in that destructive period, then the beat drops and he states, “I’ve grown up and am medicated.” To a lifelong fan this could never have sounded more reassuring. As the album progresses it is easy to draw comparisons to their influencers, The Clash, specifically in the riffs of Honeyblood. However, one downside of the album is the track Still Breathing, which was co-written with the same songwriters that work with One Direction and 5SOS. This song massively reflects the latter’s sound – you can’t help but ask yourself: why?
Although Revolution Radio won’t be regarded as a classic, it can be seen that the trio are past their experimental period. They have returned closer to their roots of fast, catchy punk-rock with a couple of acoustic reflective numbers. It’s good to see Billie Joe and co back to their best.
Picks: Somewhere Now, Youngblood, Bouncing Off The Wall
When Green Day release protest music it’s a sure sign that things are messed up.
Revolution Radio holds true to this rule, chronicling the vast catalogue of America’s problems from sensationalised violence in the media to police brutality. The album is highly political and highly personal. Armstrong invokes post 9-11 paranoia as the people: “Run for cover like a skyscraper’s falling down”. He calls out power-crazed cops and chants with an enraged sadness that “violence [is] on the rise like a bullet in the skies”, a commentary on drone strikes and domestic mass-shootings. It also recounts personal struggles through addiction and family illness. The imagery in Still Breathing of the junkie’s final hit and the “ambulance turning off the sirens” followed by the confident “I’m still alive” prove that the band have moved beyond addiction and grief over cancer diagnoses of close friends.
Sonically the album is incredibly varied ranging from aggressive riffs and screaming to the acoustic track Ordinary World. Bang Bang could have come straight off American Idiot mirroring St Jimmy in parts; while the title-track is composed of almost metallic riffs. Say Goodbye has a military feel with a beat that makes the listener fantasise about hitting the streets and re-enacting Liberty Leading the People, trading the French flag for Drumpf’s head.
Picks: Youngblood, Troubled Times, Bang Bang
“What good is peace on earth if it’s exclusive?!” “We live in troubled times!” “I want to start a revolution!” “I want to be free!” “Legalise the truth!” “Bang bang!”
If you took a transcript of all the embarrassing political rants I’ve had after a beer or three and randomly rearranged the sentences it’d end up reading like the lyrics to Revolution Radio. Except, I hope, I’d be less likely to insensitively make light of high school shootings, which is the level Billie Joe et al stoop to on lead single, Bang Bang. I appreciate their attempt to engage with and stir up the anger and anxiety that characterises your average person living under Drumpf-Putin post-truth politics; however, they fail so catastrophically by sapping it of all specificity or critique. What we’re left with is a burnt out husk of trashy one-liners and angsty clichés.
Musically, there’s little development from what we’ve come to expect of post-American Idiot Green Day – pop-punk with an arena-ready, musical-theatre makeover – although the production here is particularly tinny and lazy. Somewhere Now sounds kinda like The Who, Outlaws sounds kinda like Queen, the whole album sounds kinda like something you’ve heard before. A flicker of ambition comes with the seven minute Forever Now, which I actually like quite a lot, but it’s all far too little too late. Revolution Radio tries so hard to sound relevant and dangerous, but achieves little more than the sonic equivalent of a shrug.
Picks: Bang Bang, Forever Now
More generally though, there’s something that’s just a bit wrong with Revolution Radio. Everything else in the Green Day catalogue is more obvious when it comes to its motives: it’s either a punk record, a pop-punk record, or a pop-punk opera. No doubt, this one’s supposed to be a straight-up pop-punk album, but if that’s the case, it’s…well…a fraction suck-y. Everything strikes of steroid-induced conscientiousness (the acoustic faux-pas closer; the six-plus minute Forever Now). Don’t get me wrong, this album isn’t crap – but as soon as it’s over I want to get on with listening to the other, better Green Day material it reminds me of.
Picks: Revolution Radio, Bang Bang, Bouncing off the Wall