Release Year: 2016
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.