Billie Joe Armstrong

Best Album of 2016

Revolution Radio – Green Day

Picking my choice for best album of 2016 was harder than I imagined. In past years it was easy. There was always one record that stood out among the others. But so much of the music I heard this year was so good or at least enjoyable. It was hard to pick out which one rose above the others, but when I thought about which album excited me and kept me listening long after its release, the choice became clear.

Revolution Radio is one of Green Day’s strongest records. Their future seemed spotty after the Trilogy. And though I was one of the few that enjoyed those albums, they didn’t pump me up like their previous efforts. As soon as I heard “Bang Bang,” I knew the album was going to be killer. The last time I was truly excited for Green Day after hearing one song was 21st Century Breakdown. I don’t hate the singles from the Trilogy, but they’re kind of disappointing. RevRad kept me excited even after I heard the entire thing 50 times.  It took me a few listens to actually fall in love with the record, but that’s because I had certain expectations. I thought every song was going to sound like the lead single, so when heard tracks like “Somewhere Now” and “Outlaws” I didn’t know what to think. But after giving them a chance and looking at the lyrics, I found them to be strong, thoughtful songs.

Many felt the Trilogy saw the band take a step backward, trying to hold on to long lost youth. This record is the opposite. Green Day looks forward even if the future doesn’t look so bright. Sometimes they’re reflective, sometimes they’re angry, which is when the band really thrives. They also toss in some political commentary about recent events like the Black Lives Matter movement. It doesn’t permeate the entire record, like American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown, but it’s just enough. I honestly loved how they mixed in social commentary with songs about looking forward and getting older. The entire thing feels honest. It’s also a very focused record, something that was lacking from the Trilogy. It doesn’t sound like they’re going all over the place never sure which direction to take.

The record also seems like a mesh of what Green Day has done before. There’s the maturity of Warning, anger of American Idiot, and even some party vibes from the Trilogy. Even if the record isn’t perfect and still can’t top their best albums, it shows different sides to the band we love. They’re wild, and having fun at times. Others they’re serious and show they’re afraid for the future, something many are feeling right now. RevRad didn’t meet my initial exceptions, but that unpredictability is part of the reason I love it so much. Sure, they may be playing with the same formula, but they gave it to us in a way that made us excited, made us feel a way the Trilogy didn’t. Yes, Green Day are getting older as they show on this record, but they also show they still know how to make some noise.

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I’m Still Breathing: Green Day at Aragon Chicago

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When I first saw Green Day in 2013 on their 99 Revolutions tour, I thought it was phenomenal. Plenty of people had their complaints, but I couldn’t be happier. There were moments during that show that are still special to me. So imagine my surprise when Green Day managed to top themselves for their stop at Aragon Ballroom. Everything about it was better than before, from the setlist to the crowd. It was an unbelievable moment I’ll never forget that I almost missed out on.

Long story short, I didn’t get tickets. I tried for two hours to no avail. I considered the VividSeats route, but something told me to wait. I turned to the Green Day Community boards hoping someone would somehow have an extra. Thanks to some communication and help from fellow GD fans, I met someone who had an extra and wanted to take me. I could hardly believe I had an in to one of the biggest shows of the year. I’m normally a very shy, private person, so it surprised even me that I agreed to go with someone I never met before. Just a year ago I probably would’ve refused and just wallow in my misery at home. But I’m glad I did it. I met some great GD fans and hopefully, made a new friend in the process.

On to the show. I didn’t check out Dog Party prior to the concert, so I didn’t know what to expect. I actually really liked them. They have that kickass, slacker punk rock sound that fits well for a Green Day show. They were much better than 2013 openers Best Coast. I especially enjoyed their slow-burning cover of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl.” But I was impatient and ready to see Billie and crew! Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long for them to hop on stage. But before Green Day made an appearance, it was time for the massive “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing-along. This is still one of my favorite concert moments. It’s everyone banding together singing an epic song and enjoying themselves.

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Like with every show, the drunk bunny came out while “Blitzkrieg Bop” played in the background. After properly riling up the crowd, Green Day sauntered on stage. They kicked things off to a roar with “Know Your Enemy,” which took me by surprise. I was sure one of the new songs would open the show. Still, it was a great way to rally up the crowd and just a taste of what the next 2 hours were going to be. Of course “Bang Bang” and “Revolution Radio” followed, which got the crowd fired up. If you thought those songs were amazing on record, wait till you hear them live. Somehow the band puts more fire, energy, and drive behind them once they hit the stage. From there they launched into the obligatory songs: “Holiday,” “Longview,” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Though they played these on their last tour, they’re still a blast to hear live. All the songs are so much fun and hearing thousands of people sing “When masturbation lost its fun/you’re fucking lonely” is a rare treat. Even hearing Billie say “LIGHTS OUT!” during “Holiday” was exciting. He’s done it hundreds of times, but to fans it never gets old. We devour every precious minute the band is on that stage.

Green Day reach into their past material on this tour and it wasn’t any different in Chicago. Fans in the know properly freaked out when they launched into “Private Ale” from Kerplunk. They also churned out favorites “2000 Light Years Away” and “Christie Road,” which Billie started off soft and gentle before having the rest of the band join him. I was most excited to hear tracks like “Armatage Shanks” and “Scattered,” key tracks from “Nim-rad” as Billie pronounced it. But the moment where I knew something special was happening was “Hitchin’ a Ride.” Sure, it’s not a rare song in their setlist, but they didn’t play it last time in Chicago. So I freaked out. Billie extended the song with extra hoopin’ and hollering, begging the crowd to join him as Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt kept the steady beat. Billie proved to be a tease when he decided we weren’t cheering loud enough and turned his back on the crowd as if to say “I don’t want to play with you anymore!” Yeah, maybe it’s cheesy but I loved every minute of it.

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It always impresses what a great showman Billie is. Even if he was lying, he did everything to make sure Chicago was well loved, saying things like “We’ve been coming here since 1990!” and the city being the best – typical stage banter. But since it was such a huge weekend for our Cubs, he made sure to mention it and even said, “Looks like you finally killed that fucking goat.” At one point, someone threw a Cubs hat on stage. Billie knew what to do – he put it on and said, “I feel like this is pandering.” It may have been, but hey it worked.

The way Billie commands the crowd to sing “Hey-oh” or to “put those fucking hands in the air!” it’s like being in church. When you hear the sweet opening chords to “Burnout” or “Basket Case” you lose a part of yourself. Your mind, body, and spirit are taken by the music and the amazing band on stage. This was proven by countless sing-alongs, with the most emotional being “Still Breathing.” Billie introduced the song by saying “Sometimes you end up going to survival mode in hard times. But the great thing about survival mode, is you survive. This song’s for you.” From there, the entire venue sang the song back to him as he smiled and looked on.

The crowd exploded during cuts like “St. Jimmy,” “She,” and “When I Come Around,” where Billie handed off guitar duties to one lucky fan, who kicked major ass. They also pulled out “Youngblood” from the new album, which was an unexpected treat to hear live. Then, of course, came “King for a Day.” This is now a Green Day live staple and it’s never dull. They may pull the same silly costumes, though this time BJA sported a cute captain’s hat while Mike wore his own mask, the same sax solos, and same random song covers, but you can’t deny how much fun it is. Jason Freese killed it on the sax, while Billie joined him on kazoo, but the best was the impromptu “Carless Whisper” solo. Before launching into “Shout” Billie laid on the floor, as usual, and talked about how everyone needs a little love. The breakdown included brief covers of “Hey Jude” and “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction).” At one point Billie said “Now you’re going to adopt me. My new home is Chicago.” He probably says the same thing in every city, but it was hard not to go crazy at that moment.

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Green Day kept up the non-stop energy with “Forever Now,” which saw Billie smash his guitar, “American Idiot,” and the epic “Jesus Of Suburbia.” Hearing those songs live with more vigor and venom than the recording never gets old. For the last encore, Billie slowed things down with “Ordinary World” mixed with “Good Riddance,” which pleased the hell out of me. In 2013, they passed over this song in favor of “Brutal Love,” which is great, but it’s awesome to hear such an iconic song live. Afterward, the band signed off with Tre and Mike sporting their own masks and tossing some gifts into the crowd. It was sad to see them go, but it was on to the next city for the band.

Green Day is a sheer force of energy live. They feed off the vibes of the crowd and give it back to them one thousand percent. Watching them play leaves me awestruck. When I wasn’t singing or dancing, I just looked at how hard these guys play. Billie attacks his guitar to the point where it seems like he’s losing control. Tre hits the drums with so much force it’s like he’s calling on the thunder gods. And Mike plays the bass like a beast. Plus, I enjoyed watching his faces and kicking his feet in the air while playing. And damn, can those guys get height while jumping. Seeing the pictures of them frozen in the air makes you wonder how the hell they got so high. Their shows are one big fucking party. In between songs, like “Letterbomb,” Billie stopped to say “We are all alive tonight!” and made a pact with the crowd to push out the negativity of the world. It was clear the band wanted to have a good time and made sure the crowd had fun as well. They somehow managed to top themselves to put on an unbelievable and intimate show. There was no pyro, special effects, screens, or stage stunts. Instead, it was just us, Green Day, and the music. And it made for something special.

Thank you, Green Day, for being an incredible band.

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.

International Superhits! – Green Day

Release Year: 2001

Rating: 8.5/10

While Green Day were taking a break and deciding whether or not to stick together as a band in the early 2000s, this greatest hits compilation came out. It collects their singles from 1994-2000 along with some new tracks. A companion video was also released with most of their music videos. Fans can expect to find singles like “When I Come Around,” “Basket Case,” “Brainstew,” and “Minority.” But to make things a little more interesting, there are also some unreleased songs as well. The spunky track “Maria,” which is an awesome song, is a re-recording of the original b-side to “Waiting” and features a young angelic Billie Joe Armstrong saying “Wonderful” at the beginning.

Poprocks and Coke” was a previously unreleased track and while it’s not terrible it comes across kind of cheesy with its message of being there for each other, yet at the same time it’s kind of sweet. And for anyone who didn’t pick up a copy of the Angus soundtrack (yeah, I don’t know the movie either) the song “J.A.R.” is featured as well. Again, another okay song, but it’s always been one of my least favorites. The compilation is a great way to have all of the band’s top singles in one place and it’s also a great place for new Green Day listeners to start. It’s actually one of my favorite greatest hits album. It would’ve been cool if a song or two from their first albums were included even though no singles were released just for a more complete feeling.

Rating: 7/10

International Supervideos! follows a similar format. It has the music videos for the songs featured on the disc, but for some reason it doesn’t have all their videos that were out at the time. The clip for “Last Ride In,” which was missing from the CD, is here but there’s no “Welcome to Paradise.” Also, videos were recorded for both “Poprocks and Coke” and “Macy’s Day Parade” specifically to promote this release, yet they are missing from the DVD as well. It’s just baffling why none of these videos were included, especially since they’re on the CD. Oddly enough, watching the DVD isn’t as thrilling as listening to the album. The video collection leaves you unsatisfied while the album feels like a full experience.

Other than that, it’s a pretty cut and dry video collection. The menus included are pretty cool since they’re animated and each album has it’s own animation based off the artwork. It’s pretty awesome, but that doesn’t change the fact that the DVD leaves you feeling a bit disappointed. Hopefully, in the near future Green Day will release a complete video collection with all the clips they’ve released up until now.

Four Years Blogging and There’s Still so Much to Say

Believe it or not I’ve been blogging now for four years. I missed the anniversary almost a month ago thanks to a mass workload, but I wanted to take a minute to address it along with why I started the site in the first place. When I started this site I didn’t have any disillusions about becoming internet famous or getting popular so fast publishers were trying to give book deals. I wasn’t even trying to make money. I was a fresh graduate with a lot of free time who wanted to talk about music. I wanted to learn why I loved and cherished certain music and detested others. My friends didn’t care about my thoughts on the latest Green Day album or whether or not the latest Nirvana re-release was actually worth it. So, I decided to share my thoughts online and hoped at least one other person would be interested enough to follow my ramblings and opinions.

Also, I hate most reviews by major magazines. They’re often written by people who don’t like a certain artist in the first place. They use a lot of fucked up metaphors that may sound good, but do shit all when trying to convey if an album is good or not. I wanted my reviews to be straight forward, yet detailed. If I hated a song I wanted to to express just what it was that made it so bad. Doing this also helped me expand my tastes and find new artists to obsess over. I also figure out which albums I’ve been ignoring for way too long.

Most of all I just wanted to have fun and listen to music everyday. It sucks that I don’t have as much time as I used to to dedicate to the site because I have other writing duties, but I still try to make time. I don’t need fame or recognition to keep me going. I’m just happy when someone drops me a comment saying they enjoyed a review. Even if they don’t agree with what I said I like exchanging different views with other music fans. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how many followers I’d get when I started this four years ago. Now, there are over 100 of you following and I can’t thank you enough. Even though I started the blog for me, I don’t think I would’ve kept it going for this long if no one was interested. For followers new and old, or anyone who has stopped by for one article, thank you for taking time out of your day and reading my stuff. Hopefully, I’ve helped a few of you find some new albums or artists to check out. The site can’t go on forever, but as long as I keep being a music nerd and people still put up with my rants, I’ll keep the blog going for as long as I can.

Here’s to another year blogging.