Genre: Pop Punk
Producer: Green Day
Release Date: October 7, 2016
Green Day is without a doubt the most successful punk act in the world today, and probably one of the most successful punk acts of all time. In the 90s the band was known as a successful punk group with juvenile lyrics about teenage rebellion and first world ennui; in the early 2000’s the band reinvented themselves and went political, releasing two bombastic, critically acclaimed and politically charged rock operas. However, after the massive success of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day seemed to be at a loss where to go next.
The on their following album trilogy ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! the band threw any deeper meaning out the window and returned to their bratty roots. Doing that, Green Day immediately ran into two problems: first was the Blink-182 Problem, where tired middle-aged men try to recreate their adolescent shenanigans with half the charm and none of the energy; the second was Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Problem, where you spread your material barely good for one installment over a trilogy and end up with a lot of aimless wandering, making the listener wonder “Was any of this necessary?” And the audience reacted accordingly; the sales for each installment of the trilogy were far worse than those of its predecessors, and I personally can only remember hearing singles off the first album ¡Uno! on the radio.
Now, on Revolution Radio, their 12th full-length studio album, Green Day seems to at least partially return to form: while this might not be a larger than life melodrama in the vein of American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown, but at least they’ve partially returned to the sociopolitical commentary. Partially.
On songs like the title track or the lead single “Bang Bang” the band does what they do best: upbeat and catchy pop punk with a political edge their contemporaries like Blink-182 and Sum 41 have always lacked. However, while songs like “Say Goodbye” and “Bouncing Off the Walls” are appropriately earwormy, they both sound like Green Day ripping off themselves. Each chord progression, drum beat, guitar sound and shout of “hey!” seems to have come from some sort of Green Day starter kit, which a dozen sound engineers have used in a strictly controlled lab environment to artificially create hollow mimicry of earlier Green Day material according to a very specific formula.
The lack of innovation is not the only problem on the album: the level of the lyrical content fluctuates between passable and atrocious. With 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot the band could at least shift some of the blame on the naiveté of the characters and certain dramatic cliches their kind of story required; here there’s really no excuse for the lyrics of “Youngblood” to present “She’s my weakness / fucking genius” and “Supernova / Cherry Cola” as acceptable rhymes that would have any real meaning or message beyond that of “we had difficulties with finishing the lyrics, so we used the winning combination of rhyming dictionary, random word generator and a few bottles of bourbon to convince us this was a good idea” (unless the “Supernova” refers to the Mountain Dew brand, upon which the second pair of lines is not random, just product placement). And I’m sure there would’ve been better ways to express disillusionment of one’s teenage ideals than “Looking for a cause / But All I got was Santa Claus”.
Occasionally the band can distract you from the terrible lyrics with infectious melodic hooks that make you embarrassed to notice that you’re actually singing along to a lyrics that could’ve been improved by a monkey with a typewriter. For example “Troubled Times”, “Forever Now” and “Too Dumb to Die” are all catchy enough to camouflage the lyrical content, discreetly painting the walls red after a massacre and insisting that yes, the dining room has always been blood red, why do you ask? The album closes with “Ordinary World”, a bland, acoustic movie tie-in ballad that feels completely out of place, conflicting with the rest of the album in sound, tone and lyrical content. Its inclusion on the album without demoting it into some sort of iTunes preorder bonus track speaks volumes of the band’s lack of faith and creative drive when it comes to Revolution Radio.
Even when compared to its predecessor, the spread-way-too-thin ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! album trilogy, Revolution Radio feels barely competent: if it’s not bland, it’s predictable, and if it’s not predictable, it’s plain embarrassing. Only a few choice cuts of the album get even close to Radio, and none of it is any sort of Revolution.