As iconic and as legendary as Green Day are, they are not invincible. Despite genre defining records such as Warning or Dookie – or even their magnum opus, American Idiot – they are still subject to scrutiny when it’s warranted. For the latter half of 2012 … well, it was warranted. The group took a risk, maybe too big of a risk, on the trilogy of records known as ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! that were released in the fall of 2012, and they weren’t even part of the same collection.
Each its own separate full-length and each its own selection in the band’s discography, the records maybe caught even more heat than if they were just released as a triple disc. To say the lackluster albums tarnished the band’s twenty year legacy may be harsh, but there was a point when most thought that ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! were simply a hole that Green Day couldn’t find their way out of – and that was almost the reality.
The band went on an unplanned four year hiatus following frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s battle with alcohol addiction, but when they decided to get together once again, a new Green Day emerged. This new version was one that wasn’t so hellbent on doing things differently, and instead one that did what they know how to do best: write great rock songs. “We’re either going to be stronger than ever or we’re not going to do this” – bassist Mike Dirnt told Armstrong this during his stint in rehab, and it turns out that it ended up being true after all of these years. Green Day goes balls to the walls in its new iteration, and their new album, Revolution Radio, is the best and most personal outing from the band since American Idiot.
Revolution Radio isn’t exactly a return to form – think of it as the sequel to an incredible movie, but a decade later. It still has the same charm as before and it has a bunch of things about it that remind you why you loved the original so much in the first place, but it does it in a way that isn’t rehashed – moreso “reimagined.” The “original” in this case is, of course, the angst-filled classic Green Day punk and ideologies they’ve delivered throughout their career, but this time, there’s no frills about it.
Green Day could have tried to make a statement with Revolution Radio and exhaust its stay by creating a massive album with one too many songs on it, but this record comes in at a standard 12 tracks. Headlined by blistering lead single “Bang Bang,” Green Day isn’t afraid of speaking their mind – and they do make that statement – on the breakneck track about ongoing gun violence in the United States. It’s naturally a touchy subject, but if the band were going to come back at all, they had to be Green Day in their natural unapologetic personas. Revolution Radio isn’t as political as “Bang Bang” would lead you to believe, however, as the band includes some signature pop hooks that they’ve made their calling card since 2004.
Songs like “Still Breathing” and “Bouncing Off the Wall” are addictive jams, while the former could be Green Day’s best shot at a return to Top 40 radio. Granted, the pop on this album isn’t quite like American Idiot’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” but it manages to hold its own, and even in a chart world where EDM-pop dominates it all, these tracks can still make you go, “Yeah, I can see this getting popular.”
That being said, Revolution Radio isn’t quite as ambitious as American Idiot or their 2009 record, 21st Century Breakdown, but it’s their most honest and soul-baring effort by far. “If this is what you call the good life/I want a better way to die,” Armstrong bluntly puts it on the near seven minute track, “Forever Now,” which highlights the album’s diversity from straight rock/punk into a more power-rock tone – a sound that’s also found in the opener “Somewhere Now.”
Revolution Radio comes to a close with the simplistic acoustic number, “Ordinary World,” and it marks a fitting end to an album that seemingly does it all when it comes to what Green Day is best at churning out. This record could have turned into something much different – a record devoid of any substance or meaning. And who’s to say anyone would even care that Green Day comes out with a new album in the first place? But at the end of the day, the band’s history is overwhelming enough that a comeback of their nature – similar to that of fellow pop-punk group Blink-182 – will always be welcome as long as the end product is good enough. For a band whose career seemed like it was in its dying days, Revolution Radio showcases what it’s like to be alive once again.
Against all odds, Green Day make a triumphant return with their new album – a record that presents the best of the band while still managing to keep things fresh.