Green Day’s 12th album, Revolution Radio, was released Friday and stole the hearts of music lovers everywhere. The Californian trio has been supplying punk fans with music since 1986, from soft ballads like “Time of Your Life” to powerful anthems like “21st Century Breakdown.” It’s been awhile since the last studio album – like four years awhile. Uno, Dos, Tre came out at the end of 2012. The band took some time off to be with family and get their lives back in order.
If you listen to any alternative radio station, you may have heard GD’s single “Bang Bang” more than a few times. Once you delve into the meaning of the song, it gets dark. Real dark. In spark of the mass shootings America seems to experience too frequently, songwriter and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wrote a first-person account of what may go through a shooter’s head and how their name becomes plastered all over the news and social media. There’s hopes of being a “celebrity martyr,” “mommy’s little soldier” and getting fame. Armstrong said that putting himself in that state of mind and writing the song was “freaky.”
After hearing that first single, I prepared myself for American Idiot Part 2. I was expecting angst-filled songs about how messed up the government is and the problems within the American society. Green Day didn’t meet those expectations. They went above and beyond and created an album that was soft, thoughtful. All of the angst is thrown into that first single and the rest sounds like Armstrong has taken into account his age and pours out all that he has learned. It does address current issues, but it does so in a more subtle and subdued matter. I can’t help but think that this is what people mean when they say don’t fight fire with fire. American Idiot felt like fighting with fire. Rev Rad feels like getting a voice heard through peaceful protest.
Musically, it’s reminiscent of Warning, but more polished and with deeper meanings. There are still heavy guitars and the feeling to air drum almost every song, but Armstrong doesn’t strain his voice to incite a riot in the crowd. If anything, it’s more soothing.
Not only will the album quickly become a fan favorite, Rev Rad is loved by the band itself. Drummer Tre Cool told Rolling Stone that he thinks he’s done his best drumming ever in the opening track. From the same song, I’m running late to somewhere now that I don’t want to be is one of Armstrong’s favorite lyrics of all time. “Somewhere Now” begins with gentle guitar strums that mesh with the first lyric mentioned above. It has a melancholy vibe to it, with mentions of war and dying; however, Armstrong still sings about finding himself in the last verse. The line that I’m hung up over is We all die in threes. According to a comment on the lyric website Genius, it’s a nod to how celebrities all die in threes. I suppose that makes sense since we lost some amazing musical talent this year like David Bowie, Prince and Glenn Frey.
Inspiration for the title track was born when Armstrong marched along with a Black Lives Matter group. Scream, with your hands up in the sky / Like you want to testify / For the life that’s been deleted. “Revolution Radio” doesn’t so much represent a literal radio revolution, but rather a state of mind about the revolution that’s happening around us. I imagine that if there was a music video for this song it would show what Armstrong witnessed with his own eyes – people marching in unison, chanting the injustices that they’ve been forced to endure.
Say hello to cops on patrol. “Say Goodbye” follows in the same light as the title track. It’s not quite as catchy as the last song, but it packs the same amount of punch with the lyrics. There are powerful guitar chords about two thirds into the song that seem to mimic the violence that the song is about.
The first slow and dreamy song since the opener, “Outlaws” was one song that I expected from the album. Gone are the days of crashing parties and getting trouble and it’s now time to reflect. When I listen to it, I imagine Armstrong singing the song to the band itself – recognizing the crazy antics they performed and the times of “breaking in cars.” There are quite of few late-90s pop-punk/punk bands making a comeback this year (blink-182, Sum 41, Good Charlotte, Jimmy Eat World) and some of them still tend to sing songs like they’re back in high school and up to no good. GD acknowledge that they’re getting older, and they use it to their advantage.
Clocking in at 2 minutes and 40 seconds, “Bouncing Off the Wall” is the shortest song and the most similar to the band’s last works. Armstrong’s vocals echoed by Hey!‘s in the beginning are higher since they’re lacking the sorrowful tone. There’s an upbeat chorus and that DGAF attitude that fans relate to.
Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster with the next song. “Still Breathing” follows a wounded soldier, a junkie and a gambler “betting on his last dime.” You can interpret the title any way you would like to, but in the literal sense it’s referencing the fact that the character can still breathe on their own without any help from machines. It’s that idea that as long as you’re still breathing, you’re still holding on, then you can’t be stopped. It’s about getting that last chance to start over, finding hope to stay alive in a sense. During the break from the last album, Armstrong faced his own struggles with drugs and keeping his life held together. The song, like most of GD’s songs, can have that autobiographical feel to it.
If you don’t know the love story that is Billie Joe and Adrienne Armstrong, then you are seriously missing out. It happened 26 years ago at a GD concert, when Adrienne was just another fan in the crowd. Four years later, they got married and a couple decades later she has a song about her on Rev Rad. “Youngblood” is simply a punk love song at its finest, singing about getting drunk and being broken but finding that person who becomes the center of your world.
“Too Dumb To Die” begins with a hushed distorted guitar with some oh‘s from Armstrong before breaking into class GD chords and lyrics that are deeper than you may assume. There’s mention of picketing which goes along with the theme of peaceful protests that are currently happening.
With an ominous feel and clever but unfortunately true chorus, “Troubled Times” is like a splash of cold water. It’s one thing to point out troubling events, but it’s another thing to label this period of American (and world) history as troubled. It’s a time that will be in history books and people will be wondering why we’ve done the things we’ve done. We are living in what will be historic – wars, uncooperative government, disease, utter greed and selfishness. What part of history we’ve learned / When it’s repeated? That one lyric sums up the problem. The phrase Don’t think twice / We live in troubled times is like recognizing history has seen worse times, but don’t excuse the problems we have today because they aren’t as bad.
“Forever Now” is actually three smaller songs combined into one. “I’m Freaking Out” is as autobiographical as it gets when the song begins with Armstrong introducing himself. My name is Billie and I’m freaking out. The first part is capturing that moment of taking in the big picture, like sitting at the top of a hill and staring down at a city. It’s that moment you take a step back and ask what you are doing and how you got there. The cards have been dealt in “A Better Way To Die” but the narrator refuses to accept it – yearning for a revolution and searching for a way to fight. Things slow down during “Somewhere” as the listener is brought back to the first song of the album. The parts flow together seamlessly and completes the album by making it come full circle.
The album isn’t done quite yet. It was supposed to be, but Armstrong fell in love with the song “Ordinary World” which he wrote for his upcoming movie with the same title. It’s simple with just Armstrong and an acoustic guitar. There’s a hint of hope, something that wasn’t common throughout the album. Every verse is filled with rhetorical questions and slides into the wistful hopefulness within the chorus. Baby, I don’t have much / But what we have is more than enough / Ordinary world.
And that concludes Green Day’s 12th studio album! If you have a favorite song or some insight on the album, I would love to hear it. It felt good to finally write another review. So many great albums have come out over the last few months and I’ve been to some memorable concerts, but school is currently taking up the majority of my time. I try to post as often as I can here!
Thanks for understanding and, of course, thank you for reading,