After the three part experimental effort from Green Day, I kind of felt cheated. Here were three individual albums (Uno!, Dos!, Tre!), released within months of each other, containing 12 songs, more or less, that failed to make an impact. Yes, there were undoubtedly some winners, but the whole thing didn’t have a lasting feel that ultimately is one of the few parts of Green Day’s career that rarely revisit, save for the songs I felt were a cut above the rest.
So once they announced they were bringing forth new some new songs on one album, my hopes didn’t rise. I was nervous that they once again wouldn’t deliver. Here’s the part when I mention Billie Joe, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool all have done their best to become my favorite band, reaching that quota when I was in my pre-teens. I’ve followed them all the way through to here, and yeah, I’m one of the people who likes American Idiot. That was a dropping off point for many because of the political wording the front man put into his lyrics, but like it or not, the world is becoming a dangerous place. Billie Joe Armstrong has always been raging against the machine, so the fact that his words grew up while he did as well makes the utmost sense.
Revolution Radio, released on Friday, October 7th, allows Armstrong to both equally balance his angry at the world around us voice along with him just being the goofball he seems to be in concert and interviews. You may think that a silly human being can’t really be angry all the time, but comedy can hide a lot. In any case, the album easily is a far better effort than the last three projects, and while it doesn’t reach the passion/critical adoration put forth by American Idiot, at the same time, what is provided here is a listen that requires less of its audience, which is not a bad thing whatsoever.
We begin with “Somewhere Now,” which starts off quiet, then revs into the Green Day sound that rings familiar to those knowledgeable of the power chords the band has always relied on to hang their words on. Armstrong tackles the state of the world, including the arms race, shopping online, and he states a lyric which is almost disturbing:
/I put the riot in almost in patriot/
Unfortunately, this mindset is not shared by all the American people, but considering recent major events about individuals taking power of murder and destruction in their own hands, those words are borderline genius in a powerful way that echoes across the country.
“Bang Bang” is the second track and the first single off the album. It was reviewed in detail on this very site when it released, but quickly it must be mentioned while it still has a powerful message and the rhythm is almost infectious, it doesn’t have the same influence of choice when you have the availability of a whole album now.
The titular track, “Revolution Radio” is an anthem, where, using an aforementioned phrase, Armstrong rages against the machine. He speaks for those who have not had the ability to have a face among those lost, who have been taken from us (generally speaking) too soon. Another winner.
“Say Goodbye” brings about a marching rhythm with a touch of Marilyn Manson, both sound wise and word wise. Bille Joe is making it quite clear that he’s questioning authority, stating his thoughts in almost a Gospel like fashion. The mixture of both those things make for a compelling listen.
“Outlaws” is probably the first speed bump on the album, personally. It has a almost 50’s/60’s vibe, and I can’t deny that some of the text within has its moments, but to me, it’s a misstep and completely halts the album in its tracks.
The next track, “Bouncing Off The Wall” is undoubtedly my favorite. The sound gets locked in your brain, with the garage rock genre blasting through. It does have a political nature, no doubt, but you kind of lose sight of that because your foot will honestly be tapping along to the beat. It’s ALMOST a tune you could dance to if the audience was right for it.
The fun nature fades with “Still Breathing,” in which Armstrong analyzes the difficulties many face, creating singular situations that can be survived due to the fact that the victim can take pride in saying they still have air in their lungs. It’s a powerful message, and definitely one you really have to listen to with effort.
Catchy riffs return with “Youngblood,” an ode to a girl as evidenced by the narrator. Simple, but fun. An easy listen.
“Too Dumb Too Die” is an unfortunate title for what is otherwise a decent song. Armstrong really throws his weight into the words here, creating some sort of punk poetry:
“My daddy was on strike/going off with the the teamsters/he said that everything will be alright/not every Sunday can be Easter.”
At the end of the day though, it just seems like a song about a life gone by with one missed opportunity after another.
“Troubled Times” dissects the American structure, saying we are repeating history and then we have to fight for what is good and true. The message is there and it’s trying, but as a standalone song, it’s ok at best.
“Forever Now” speeds everything up, and has several parts to it, much like “Jesus of Surburbia,” or “Homecoming” off American Idiot. The beginning of the song is referencing Armstrong himself as a person, and his reaction to his fame, supposedly. Then he shifts to calling out the “good life” and how it’s all a joke. Following that, he brings lyrics from “Somewhere Now” back into play, meshing them with putting off making a difference. The song, which is 6 minutes and 52 seconds, doesn’t lose a second and it is both equally powerful and disappointing only due to the fact that Armstrong speaks of a procrastination that is too well known.
The closer, “Ordinary World” has echoes of the ukulele version of “What a Wonderful World/Over the Rainbow,” and simply put, it’s beautiful. It’s easily the best sentimental song of the band since “Good Riddance/Time of Your Life.” Lyrically, it’s not as wordy as other tracks on the album, but in a confusing world, Billie Joe values what he has in, well, an ordinary world.
After many listens, “Revolution Radio” may not reach Green Day’s early album efforts, or their rock opera American Idiot, but that’s ok. What is provided here is Billie Joe showing that he’s still a master of some sort of pen, looking at the crumbling American mindset that has witnessed too many tragedies in the recent year. Thankfully, music can put us at ease sometimes, and even though Green Day speaks of the things we may want to get away from, at least we can know that we can bask in the feeling of knowing that escapism by a political form of musical entertainment can help to share our anger. Thanks you for that,Green Day.