Revolution Radio – Green Day

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8.5/10

Everyone has to grow up sometimes, even some punks from Oakland. It can’t be fuck the man and rebel, rebel, rebel all the time. Sometimes you need to stop to pay the bills. This is what Green Day explores on Revolution Radio. The band’s twelfth album finds them back on top after a trio of ill-received records. When news of this album first dropped, I was beyond ecstatic. My excitement only grew when they first single dropped. Now, RevRad is here and what’s my final verdict? Strap yourself in, this may be a long one.

When I initially listened to RevRad, I hate to say I was kind of disappointed. I wanted more raging, loud songs like “Bang Bang.” But once I got over the fact that the album isn’t just about being angry, I came to love it. Several songs took me by surprise, one of them being “Somewhere Now.” With its soft opening, quiet vocals, and reflective lyrics it gave me a Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen vibe. Not necessarily in sound, but in content. Billie Joe Armstrong croons about getting older and the painful compromises we have to make, especially if we were dead set on being rebellious at a younger age. It shows a mature Green Day, something fans got an unexpected taste of on Warning.

Bang Bang” and “Revolution Radio” are ragers for sure. They’re for those who like their Green Day loud, fast, and angry. After hearing the former song, I was so pumped for the album, something I hadn’t felt since “Know Your Enemy.” Even after hearing it so many times, the song still fills me with adrenaline and gets me jumping all over the place. “Revolution Radio” is a song meant for starting riots. With Armstrong’s cry of “Legalize the truth!” it’s easy to imagine millions of fans throwing their fists in the air. The track is inspired by recent events in Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement, so there’s the air of frustration, unrest, and a rally for change. It’s another awesome, high energy song that should get a huge response live.

Say Goodbye” is another strong track from the album. The heavy, tribal-esque percussion and the unrest that permeates the air makes it the most aggressive song on the LP. Also inspired by the protests in Ferguson and all the recent riots, there’s this air of anger and frustration in every element of the song. From the music to the lyrics, you can feel the need for change and people being fed up with how they’re treated. Despite this, Armstrong manages to sound coy and playful as he sings “Say goodbye to the ones that we love/goodbye to the ones that we love.” And for reasons I can’t explain it’s so satisfying when he sings “Oh lord/have mercy on my soul.” It’s a back to basics, “we’re fucking angry and you’re gonna hear about it” song for Green Day, making one of the most satisfying.

Changing things completely is “Outlaws.” This song had to grow on me a bit. At first, I didn’t like the slow nature of the track. But now, I appreciate its dreamlike quality – it fits the nostalgic tone of the song. The only thing I still don’t like about the track is the opening. The distorted riff is jarring and doesn’t fit the flow of the rest of the song at all. Aside from that, the song is a bittersweet reflective look on the band’s youthful rebellion. Though it’s a ballad, which Green Day excels at, there’s still this fire and edge to it, especially during the bridge. This keeps the song from getting dull and boring. It’s actually pretty and kind of heartbreaking. If you’re the right age, it’ll make you think about your youth and it might form a lump in your throat.

Bouncing off the Wall” seems like a throwaway at first, but it’s just mindless fun. There’s this great upbeat energy to the track that makes you want to dance. It’s a nice break from the serious themes happening on the album. It actually sounds like a leftover from the Foxboro Hot Tubs. But this is where we start to hear the questionable lyrics on the album: “Chasing fireflies and zeroes.” This one still leaves my head scratching. These weird lyrics pop up in other songs, like the energetic and frantic “Too Dumb to Die:” “I feel like a cello/lost somewhere over the rainbow.” Sometimes the lyrics sound cool, but don’t make much sense. This album is not necessarily Armstrong’s finest when it comes to writing. But it doesn’t make me like the songs any less. I don’t always need my music to have substance, so I don’t mind the weird lyrics. Sometimes they just stick out and make you pause.

Still Breathing” is classic Green Day all the way. Great energy, hard guitars, and a hook made for sing-alongs. The way Armstrong sings out its positive message of coming out the other side of hard times is uplifting. Hearing that moment when he sings “Cause I’m still breathing” and the music falls away for a moment before the guitars explode, gives you chills. It makes you want to jump up and shout along with him. This will be a great crowd pleaser at shows. While “Youngblood” is good, it can be forgettable. It’s one I often don’t remember. It’s still really satisfying and catchy. Otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward, standard Green Day track. The most memorable about the track is the line “Swear to god/and I’m not even superstitious.” Armstrong says so much about religion in that one lyric.

I’ve already mentioned “Too Dumb to Die,” which starts with this great lazy, sleepy groove before waking up with an explosion of guitars and drums. Personally, this song speaks to me; it’s about having a dream you don’t let go of even though others think you should, something I still relate to. Unfortunately, the weakest song on the album is “Troubled Times.” It’s not memorable, the hook is repetitive and lazy, and it’s kind of dull. The message is genuine and well meaning but executed in a bland manner. For Green Day, it’s a pretty generic song.

It’s hard to pick a favorite on this album, but currently, it’s “Forever Now.” It has that same larger than life feeling as their other lengthy songs, like “Jesus of Suburbia.” Though not as epic as that track, it’s a sheer force of driving energy and non-stop frenzy. The track is divided into three different acts that address the different themes of the album: getting older, being unhappy with the world, and acceptance. Coming back to lyrics, this song has one of the best lines of the entire album: “if this is what you call the good life/I want a better way to die.” Armstrong says how he feels about the world in this one line; it says so much in so little.

As the song continues, everything keeps building on top of each other getting more intense until we get to the “Somewhere Now” reprisal. Hearing the song again, the lyrics really hit home, especially the line “I’m heading late for somewhere now/I don’t want to be.” Armstrong laments giving up aspects of his life for something he didn’t think he’d be doing. Isn’t that something we can all relate to? It’s a thought-provoking way to end this awesome song.

The closing song “Ordinary World” is bare bones, yet beautiful. Though I don’t think it’s the proper closing song, that would be “Forever Now,” its simplicity and soothing nature makes it stand out. The light music has a lullaby quality to it, which is nice from the onslaught of anger, guitars, and fury from the other tracks. There’s also a somber tone to it; Armstrong wonders about his place in the world and similar to the other tracks, there’s a sense of reflection to it. It’s a great song, yet feels out of place on the album. It seems like it was only included due to the movie being released shortly after the LP.

Revolution Radio wasn’t what I expected, but that’s part of the reason I like it so much. It may not live up to some of the band’s other albums, but it’s more focused and has more substance than their previous efforts. Some of the songs have spotty lyrics, not showing off Billie’s writing talent, but at least it never crosses into cringe territory. The songs here seem to represent the different styles the band has done over the years. There’s the anger of American Idiot, the party vibe of the Trilogy, the political air of 21st Century Breakdown, and the maturity of Warning. They may not hit certain political themes as hard as they could, but it’s nice that the record doesn’t focus solely on these issues. Rather they spend most of it reflecting on their youth and getting older. But as the songs here show, just because their older doesn’t mean they have to behave.

Playlist: Oh, the horror!

It’s October, the month of Halloween! Put up the spider web, break out the candles, and turn off the lights. It’s time to watch some scary movies. Though I love music, I’m also a horror movie fanatic. For the past two years, I’ve been watching a horror/Halloween movie every day to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve. By doing this I’ve learned how important music is to the horror film. Sometimes it’s scarier than the movie itself. A good horror theme makes you shiver before the monster reveals itself. Most horror themes fall into the cliche of booming, dramatic string music  and lots of panic. Then there are the themes that are so good, they stick with you forever. These are themes that can scare you even if the movie isn’t playing. Here are some of the best themes in horror.

Sinister (2012)

Sinister is a pretty good horror movie. It’s unnerving, hits all the right creepy spots, and keeps you on edge. But the thing that shook me the most about the movie was the music. And I’m not talking about the main theme. I mean the weird, jarring, spine-tingling music that plays during the “home movies.” There isn’t just one that’s scarier than the others; they’re all fucking terrifying. Hearing the music still, makes me cringe and curl up into a ball. The ominous noises, otherworldly vocals, jarring piano, and unsettling mood gives you goosebumps especially when paired with the disturbing footage. Often times the music lulls you into this false sense of safety; the music is quiet and soft. Then it hits you with a loud noise and broken piano making you jump out of your skin. Composer Christopher Young did an excellent job with the soundtrack. This movie is a great example of how great music is very effective in horror films.

The Exorcist (1973)

This is one of the most iconic horror themes of all time. Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” is haunting, unnerving, yet oddly beautiful. It’s the first minute of the song that really makes you shiver. Something about it is innocent and dark all at once. The song loses some of its creepiness near the end when guitars are introduced making it sound more like an 80s rock song. Still, when you hear it, you know bad things are coming. It’s been used outside of the horror realm, like in the 1979 NASA movie The Space Movie. But thanks to its association with this film, it will always strike fear in your heart.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

This is one of those themes that takes you off guard. Composed by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper, it opens like many other horror themes; ominous noises and tolling bells. This is then interrupted by a high pitched screeching noise that sounds like nails on a chalkboard. It repeats several times making you grit your teeth as it gets louder. From there we get a news report of the grisly murders while clanging and thumping resonate in the background. Random noises keep getting louder and louder as the newscaster is drowned out making you wonder what’s happening. It’s eerie and uncomfortable to listen to, which makes it a perfect fit for the film. You’ll want to look over your shoulder after hearing it.

Creepshow (1982)

The opening theme for the excellent film Creepshow is the epitome of horror movie themes: stark strings, creeping piano, and unnerving trickling ivories. There’s even lightning cracking in the background. The music then turns into some kind of demented lullaby getting scarier and scarier. Throw in some maniacal laughter, thunder striking, and more piano playing and you’ve got the perfect horror theme. It sounds what you would hear when walking through a haunted house with only a lantern to guide you. Though why you would want to do that is beyond me. Like most of these themes, it’s unsettling, but beautiful at the same time. Thanks for the nightmares, John Harrison.

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Composed by Lalo Schifrin, the genius behind this theme is how subtle it is. It begins with lush tones and some light piano tickling putting you at ease. When the piano is fleshed out, you feel safe and calm. It actually sounds pretty and almost seems out of place for a horror film. But before you get too comfortable ethereal voices filter in with eerie harmony. Still, it’s not that bad; a little unsettling, but nothing that makes you feel scared. The theme goes the extra mile by adding ominous percussion that hammers and thuds,  reminding you of the horror that lies ahead much like the infamous horror house itself.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Whereas other themes want to lull you into a false sense of security, the theme for Friday the 13th is made to terrorize you. Right from the start it strikes panic in your heart with the stark strings getting faster and faster. Harry Manfredini perfectly captures the frightful mood of the first film. It sounds like someone running through the woods, trying to get away while Mrs. Voorhees is on their tail. Jason’s infamous cry of “ki ki ki…ma ma ma” adds another layer of fear to the already frightening tune. The theme got a weird, disco upgrade for the third film, which is funny and a little corny, but it’s this one that will always be remembered.

Dracula (1931)

This one is cheating a little bit since this song wasn’t written specifically for the film. Rather it’s an excerpt from Act II from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Since the technology for adding film scores was severely limited in 1930, no score was ever written for the film. Rather, this song was used for the opening credits along with Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the endNormally, such a beautiful and elegant piece of music wouldn’t work for most horror movies, but this one has such an unspoken beauty to it. The tune is pretty, but it’s also fierce and dramatic much like the iconic vampire himself.

The Conjuring (2013)

Similar to the Amityville theme, this one starts out sounding nothing like a horror movie. It’s calming, pretty, and sweet with a light piano playing softly. Though it’s mellow there’s still something ghostly about it, like it’s the soundtrack for tragic events. It goes on like this for a minute until the music builds up with an eerie choir singing. The music and mood suddenly turn dark as everything gets louder and intense. It then returns to its soft sound as if the loud, jarring noises never occurred. Near the end, the music swells sounding more cheerful and hopeful than before. Listening to it, it reflects the changing moods of the film. The family moves into a new house excited to start a new life. They then experience turmoil and fear when supernatural events begin to occur. But things are hopeful once again when the band things have passed.

Deep Red (1975)

Some horror films are satisfied with using the standard tropes when it comes to the soundtrack. Others want to do something entirely different making you rethink what horror music can be. This is what Goblin’s theme for Deep Red does. It begins with an uneasy twinkling piano dancing around. Though it doesn’t give you goosebumps, something about it is unsettling. You hear it and know something is wrong. At the same time, it sounds like the start to 70s prog rock song, which isn’t a bad thing. As the music fleshes out, it turns into a production of synth, percussion, and more of the opening riff. Rather than sounding scary, it sounds mysterious. The horror tropes come in at the end when the organ swells creating a Gothic atmosphere. It’s a one of a kind theme and shows why Dario Argento signed on Goblin to score more of his movies.

The Fog (1980)

The master of horror John Carpenter is also the master of creating music that gives you nightmares. The theme for this 1980 movie The Fog shocks you right out the gate with violent thunder crashing. It’s a little cheesy considering it’s a horror cliche, but it’s the music that follows that makes it unforgettable. The entire theme is the same fragile piano riff treading throughout the song. As it goes on, the tone changes getting deeper and more dreadful than before. Each time the music repeats, it sounds more horrifying than the last. It signifies something horrible waiting for you in the darkness. It perfectly captures the ominous vibe and terror of the film.

Psycho (1960)

Whenever the topic of Psycho comes up the first thing that comes up is the music from the iconic shower scene. The screeching violins and foreboding bass denote a sense of dread when you hear it. This brief song is the universal sign for saying someone is crazy. It hits all the right spots when it comes to horror music. It’s scary and uncomfortable. This theme often overshadows the beauty and eeriness of the main theme by Bernard Herman. The booming music, frantic strings, and rapid pace brings on a sense of panic. It sounds like you should be running for your life when you hear it. Then the middle comes with a brief, lilting melody. It still retains it’s terror thanks to the constant stirring violins buzzing underneath.

Children of the Corn (1984)

Johnathan Elias’ Gothic, baroque opening for this theme makes it better suited for a black and white horror movie than an 80s Stephen King film. Right from the beginning, there’s an uneasiness to the tune letting you know you walked into the start of something horrible. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the children’s choir comes. As any horror fan knows, there’s something unnerving, disturbing, and creepy about children singing. Here is no different. Maybe without the Victorian music, it wouldn’t sound as scary, but the music mixed with the harmonizing kids makes it chilling. And if you know the story of Children of the Corn, you know this theme is eerily fitting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

With how ridiculous the later movies in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise are it’s easy to forget how terrifying the first film is. Some parts are kind of hokey, but a burnt child molester that attacks you in your dreams with his steel claws? That’s fucking horrible! There’s a reason why the first film is still regarded as one of the best in the genre. And a great horror film needs a great theme. Composed by Charles Bernstein, the theme starts with a quiet eeriness. It slowly builds up tension, leaving listeners in the worst kind of suspense. That moment of fear hits with a light piano melody that sends chills up your spine. Throw in some odd noises that sound like evil laughter and a creepy kid’s choir and you’ve got a horror classic.

Halloween (1978)

The mother of all horror movie themes. John Carpenter’s theme for Halloween is unmistakable. The iconic piano melody has struck terror in the hearts of millions for almost 40 years. It manages to be one of the most frightening themes in horror despite its simplicity. The song consists of the same piano melody repeated for over two minutes, but it’s the dark vibes and moody sounds that makes this theme genius. There are times when the scariest thing about Halloween is hearing this theme, signaling Michael Myers. Stark and subtle, it is the ultimate horror theme.

Which horror movie theme is your favorite? Which one did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Mini update!

Hey guys! It seems like it’s been a long time since I posted something to the blog. I planned to post a review today, but I’m currently finishing up the playlist for October. Rather than just putting up a regular album review, I want to get the playlist for the month up as soon as I can. I like posting them early in the month, so people can enjoy them the entire month. So, it will be up this week. I just need a few more days to finish it up, so please bare with me! As you can guess the playlist will be Halloween related. At this time, I’m hoping to get it up by Thursday. So thanks for being patient and understanding. I just wanted to make sure you guys knew that new content was on the way. Hopefully, this won’t be an issue next month!

And thank you for supporting me on the new schedule. As I said, it was a hard decision to make as I liked posting twice a week, but my loaded schedule made it harder to do. Though I didn’t want to, the new posting schedule seems to be better. I’m getting some new reviews ready and it’s not as stressful. So again, thank you so much for sticking with me through this new change. I haven’t forgotten about you!

But if you want to check out some new writing from me, check out my new column on Chicago Music, On the Radar. It’s an article I write every week talking about what in music I’m obsessed with.

Also, you can head over to AXS and check out my latest interview with Jerome Fontamillas of Switchfoot.–107318

Thanks again and hang tight! There will be a new playlist coming this week!

Time For a Change

Hey guys. It’s been a while since I’ve actually stopped and talk to you and thank everyone for stopping by. Whether you’re a follower or just checked out one of my reviews, thanks for visiting the blog. I wouldn’t keep doing this without you.

But the reason for this post is to announce a change in upload schedule. Over the past year or so, I’ve been doing my best to keep a consistent schedule of two posts per week. But as I’ve gotten more writing work and taken up a part time job, it’s been harder to keep the schedule going. Lately, it’s hard to find the time to sit down, listen to music, and analyze it the way I want to. I don’t want to just listen to anything just for the sake of content. I always want to make sure whatever I’m covering is what I’m genuinely interested in at the time.

I thought about it for a long time and I didn’t want to do it, but I decided it’s best to change when I upload reviews. Instead of uploading two pieces per week, I’ll be uploading one roughly every two weeks. It sucks, but I think this will work better with my more hectic schedule. I want to make sure the blog stays fun for everyone. I don’t want it to turn into a chore, which is where it’s been heading over the past few months. When I started the blog, I had the ability to dedicate all my time to it. Now I realize I don’t anymore, but I don’t want to stop blogging. Hopefully, this change will allow me to work on more awesome content for the blog without stressing out so much about.

Thanks for being understanding and thanks for following the site. Here’s to more great content in the future!

Venus Doom – HIM


Release Year: 2007

Rating: 6/10

Everyone has that one album they tried to like – this is that album for me. I gave this record so many chances thinking it might have been me; maybe I was too quick to dismiss it. Maybe it’s one of those albums that gets better with age. I could be completely wrong about the LP, like I was about Scream, Aim, Fire. But after revisiting it once again, my feelings have not change. I still think this is the band’s worst album despite their good intentions.

The album seems to start off on a good note with opening tracks “Venus Doom” and “Love in Cold Blood.” Hearing the heavy crunchy guitars, energetic beat, and familiar themes of love and death, I thought maybe I was wrong about the LP. But then the big issue kicked in with both tracks: changing gears midway through. On “Venus Doom” after the standard guitar solo, the music slows down to a light lullaby while Ville Valo puts on his deep throat vocals to sound menacing. The whole thing just doesn’t work and feels corny. On the latter track, right when it should end the band picks up the pace and rock out, which doesn’t add anything to the song aside from making it longer. Unfortunately, this issue pops up constantly throughout the album.

So many of the songs like “Passion’s Killing Floor” and even the strong “The Kiss of Dawn” suffer from musical changes. For some reason, the band decides to shift gears and switch up their playing. The problem is it rarely does this smoothly. It often comes off as abrupt making the song as a whole disjointed. “The Kiss of Dawn” is actually one of the better songs from the album, but unless you’re listening to the radio edit, a light muted melody is tacked on at the end. It doesn’t fit in with the song and just makes it longer than it needs to be. It’s such a disappointment because you’ll be rocking out to the song and suddenly it’s like another track is playing when it’s still the same one. It ruins the flow of the music and makes the song dull.

Then there’s “Sleepwalking Past Hope,” which is ten unbearable minutes of slow, soft music, lilting vocals, and lots of melancholy. Like so many of the other tracks, it starts off well with a somber, haunting piano riff that lures you in. But before you can get into the song distorted guitars replace this music making you wonder why it even started with the somber riff at all? It continues with the heavy guitars for about five minutes before it switches tempo and slows down again. After that, a wild solo pops up out of nowhere trying to wake you up and make you remember you’re listening to the song. The entire thing is so entirely drawn out. Did it need to be ten minutes? No fucking way. There is no justifiable reason why the song needed to be so long. All it does it does is bore you before the thing ends. Some bands know how to make lengthy songs that are exciting; HIM is not one of those bands. This album also has their shortest song “Song or Suicide,” which is so short it just feels pointless.

There are a few times when the band gets it right, like on the catchy “Bleed Well.” This is standard HIM all the way: heavy guitars, light melody, and images of love and death. It’s just so satisfying to hear, especially after all the other poor tracks. There’s a memorable guitar riff that opens the song, followed by Valo coyly singing “You had demons to kill,” which will melt you if you used to (or still) crush on him. Another good track is “Dead Lover’s Lane,” which sounds like a leftover from their previous effort Dark Light. It’s another one that sounds like classic HIM and even has a shift in sound during the bridge, but this time, it’s actually good. It flows really well instead of sounding like two different songs.

I really tried to like this album, but no matter how many times I listen to it my feelings are the same. Even if the band didn’t suddenly change tempo in the middle of the songs, it would still be a weak album. Most of the songs are okay at best, otherwise, they’re a little too familiar. And anyone who’s been following the band before this will most likely miss the keyboards, which they swapped out for more guitars. Sure, maybe it is their heaviest album in terms of some of the music, but it doesn’t keep listeners from losing interest. It also has some of their cheesiest lyrics that sounds like they’re taken from a bad goth poem. It’s time to face the truth; I just don’t like this album.