Green Day’s latest offering is a largely unoriginal, imitative hodgepodge.
by Joe Daley
Every few years, I find myself at my local church. Some of the congregation come seeking comfort. Others long for spiritual guidance. I go to ask God why Green Day continues to release new music. My question is invariably met with a cold silence.
The Bay Area outfit made its name in the mid-90s explosion of Southern Californian punk that also saw the rise of groups like Rancid, The Offspring, and Bad Religion. But none of these groups managed to make it nearly as far in the pop world as Green Day. The latter’s willingness to sign with a major label, cooperate with the MTV branding machine, and grind out pop-friendly music quickly earned them the label of “sell-out,” a stigma has followed them in the underground music scene ever since.
Green Day has never stopped claiming the punk credibility denied to them, no matter how drastically they have changed their sound along the way. Their latest album, Revolution Radio, is a sad example of this confused pathology.
From a lyrical perspective, the album’s songwriting is Green Day through and through. When Billie Joe Armstrong sings “I put the riot in patriot,” all I hear is Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock asking “How do you do, fellow kids?” Worse, the cringeworthy attempts at rebellious political statements never stop. They have been one of the band’s trademarks since 2004’s American Idiot. On the title track, Armstrong demands that the powers that be “legalize the truth.” On “Say Goodbye,” he decries “violence on the rise like a bullet in the sky.” This sort of half-baked, witless attempt at sociopolitical commentary is a ploy to get back in the good graces of core punks, but it only makes the band look desperate.
In terms of the music, the band doesn’t even sound like itself. The bulk of “Bang Bang” is straight out of the Pennywise playbook. “Somewhere Now,” “Outlaws,” and to an extent “Bouncing Off The Wall” come across as attempts to update The Who for a 21st century audience. But for the most part, the tunes end up sounding like bad Guided by Voices songs. Some tracks seem to ape more accessible trends. For instance, “Say Goodbye” takes on a shuffling rhythm that resembles too many barroom country anthems.
When the band isn’t imitating others, they’re often rehashing their own earlier work. The chorus of “Say Goodbye” is reminiscent of their 2004 hit “Holiday.” “Forever Now” employs many of the tricks the band first showed on “Homecoming,” the closing track on American Idiot. A band can be forgiven for resting on its laurels, but when those laurels are twelve years old it becomes an exercise in the uninventive.
The album’s strongest moment is “Still Breathing,” a standard pop-punk ode to survival that is at least partly inspired by Billie Joe Armstrong’s battles with substance abuse. While not breaking new ground, the song’s standard but catchy hook avoids the odd musical recycling and lackluster lyricism that plagues the rest of the album.
For anyone but the most committed Green Day fan, Revolution Radio is pretty much a waste of time.
Joe Daley is a senior at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is an English major focusing on alternative literature.