CHARLIE MCMAHON ’18
In today’s anxious and disconcerting political climate, music can help vent frustrations. Few albums encapsulate 2004 more than Green Day’s “American Idiot.” Much like 2016, 2004 was an election year and a pretty messy one at that. America’s adolescent population was growing discontented with the Bush administration and desperately sought change. Songs like “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Jesus of Suburbia” perfectly summed up this sentiment, and resonated well with younger buyers. “American Idiot” brought the idea of a concept album and rock opera to a younger generation, and left them wanting more.
It only seemed fitting for Green Day to make their comeback in the chaos of 2016. But the truth is that “Revolution Radio” isn’t “American Idiot.” Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, and sadly, this year’s effort wasn’t Green Day’s best. It seems like the band relied heavily on in-studio production methods, leaving behind their raw instrumental chemistry, typified in early albums “Kerplunk!” and “Dookie.” Lead vocalist and principle songwriter, Billy Joe Armstrong, may still be acting and singing like a dissatisfied adolescent, but the band has changed. Popular music today relies heavily on auto-tuner and synthesized instrumentation, and unfortunately, “Revolution Radio” reflects this trend.
Earlier this summer, pop-punk group Blink-182 released “California.” Both Blink-182 and Green Day catered to the same teenage markets in the early 2000’s but went in totally different directions with their current work. Where Blink’s piece was playful and fun, Green Day’s was serious and melancholy, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, to make a good Green Day song, there has to be substance behind the morose lyrics, and to me, the songs of “Revolution Radio” largely missed the mark.
“Still Breathing” harkens back to the glory days of Green Day, with cutting guitar riffs and Armstrong’s droning voice, but it lacks the real substance that “American Idiot” had. When comparing the two albums, it seems like Green Day created “American Idiot” because they had something to say. There was a reason for their dissatisfaction. “Revolution Radio” seems like a corporate attempt to capitalize on nostalgia for early 2000s pop-punk.
In a year marked by absurd politics, at home and abroad, it would have been nice to have a Green Day album that brings you back to your adolescence, but sadly, this is not it. There was very little growth on this album, and although the tracks are catchy, they leave you wanting more and feeling dissatisfied.
Clearly, the band can still play, and quite well at that. They have not degraded as musicians. If artists intend to capitalize on a sentimental sound, it either needs to be playful, and fun, or substantial. Blink-182’s “California” didn’t show much growth from the band, but it didn’t take itself nearly as seriously as “Revolution Radio” does. Blink satirized their 2000s pop-punk sound, while Green Day tried to reassert its dominance, when, in reality, it doesn’t have anymore.
“Revolution Radio” isn’t Green Day’s best effort. It contains some strong tracks, but in the end, lacks a message. If you’re going to listen to an album for the sake of bringing yourself back to the early 2000’s, play Blink’s “California.” If I had to rank “Revolution Radio,” I’d give it a 6/10, because it definitely isn’t bad. It just isn’t great.
CHARLIE MCMAHON ’18