Green Day - Revolution Radio (Cover Artwork)

Green Day

Revolution Radio (2016)

Reprise Records

Green Day is at a point in their carrier where they should be comfortable in their own shoes, putting out records with an established sound that please their fan base, but don’t surprise anyone anymore. Instead, they just went through a mid-life crisis of excesses, both musically and in their personal lives, and now seem to be trying to go back to their punk rock roots. And at the same time not. It’s confusing.

On one hand, Revolution Radio is a single record with 12 mostly-short songs and no complex album-wide narrative to be seen. On the other, it suffers from the arena rock production and the theatricality that marked American idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, from an excess of ballads and from being a band that can’t fit back into the punk rock world, nor can fully embrace a commercial rock sound and attitude.

If you’re a fan of the band, there are enough descent songs here to make for a good listen and at least this time around Billie Joe stopped swearing left and right like a rebellious pre-teen, but his lyrics still leave a lot to be desired. They’re not only full of clichés, but many times you can’t really tell what the hell he’s going on about.

In “Revolution Radio” there are images thrown around for no apparent reason, like “My love's bullet proof; give me cherry bombs and gasoline; debutantes in surgery”. In “Bang Bang”, a tune about mass shootings and police violence, he sings "give me death or give me head; daddy’s little psycho and mommy’s little soldier” and “I’ve got my photobomb; I’ve got my Vietnam”. At some point, you got to ask if he’s just putting war/violence related words together randomly.

Musically, the record is just as lost. If “Revolution Radio”, “Bang Bang”, and “Too Dumb To Die” sound good and as punk rock as Green Day can in 2016, “Outlaws”, “Troubled Times” and “Somewhere Now” are either cheesy ballads or have cheesy ballad-y parts with a grandiose sound and a theatrical atmosphere that don’t mix well with the heavier songs. In addition, many of the melodies seem recycled from older songs and put together like a collage.

"Forever Now" is a different case altogether. Although it has better, more personal lyrics that you can actually understand instead of a bunch words from a same theme put alongside each other, it's almost 7 minutes long and contains a part that refers back to the opening track “Somewhere Now”. In a record that is supposed to be a simple collection of independent songs, it sounds like an ill-fitted forgotten b-side from 21st Century Breakdown.

Luckily, "Ordinary World" is the exact opposite. It's the slower song on the record, but it's the best ballad here simply because it escapes from the overproduction and the overbearing theatricality from the rest of the record. It's sounds way more sincere and natural instead of like they're trying too hard. "Bouncing Off The Wall" and "Youngblood" are also descent tracks, in a fun, poppy and not-too-pretentious way, despite the lyrics still leaving something to be desired.

The general impression is that Green Day want to be underground again without leaving their arena rock sound behind, want to do a straight forward record without giving up on really long songs that mention lyrics from one another, want to be a punk band that have as many ballads as fast-paced tunes, want to be politically engaged without having a lot to say on the topic. In the end, despite some good ideas and enjoyable enough songs, they have a record that lacks focus, creativity and inspiration.