On October 7th, 2016, Green Day refused to let punk rock die with the release of their new album Revolution Radio. Featuring the popular single “Bang Bang,” the album is worth a listen, but it is certainly no American Idiot. Green Day formed in 1986, 30 years ago, and still continues to create music. At 44 years old, Billie Joe Armstrong is a modern day Peter Pan who refuses to grow up. He acknowledges this and sheds some light on the issue with this new, if somewhat trite, album.
The first four songs on the album remain loyal to the band’s traditional sound, featuring upbeat guitar riffs and emotionally charged lyrics about rage and revolution. On Track No. 4, “Say Goodbye,” Armstrong references the “violence on the rise” and urges listeners to “Hear the children sing / For the sick and suffering.” Songs throughout the album focus on the woes of the world. In Track No. 10, “Troubled Times,” Armstrong sings over and over, “We live in troubled times.” It would not be a Green Day album, or even a punk album, without constant harping on the terrible state of our civilization. On Revolution Radio, however, there is a lack of specificity regarding the problems our society is facing. Although the lyrics are angry and impassioned, they are vague and do not focus on any particular political issues. Green Day calls for a revolution, but what are we supposed to revolt against?
Perhaps the more interesting aspect of the album is Armstrong’s reminiscence of his youth and his attempt to hold on to the past. Track No. 5, “Outlaws,” is difficult to listen to without feeling empathy for a man who sings of a time, “When we were forever young” along to a wishful melody. In the same song, he remembers how “We destroyed suburbia,” nostalgia for any Green Day fan who listened to American Idiot religiously as a teenager. Armstrong continues his narrative with Track No. 9, “Too Dumb to Die” and Track No. 11, “Forever Now.” The first line of the latter is “My name is Billie, and I’m freaking out.” At this point, he directly claims the album as his own story.
Revolution Radio is loaded with catchy choruses, foot-tapping instrumental breaks, and angsty distortions. While there are some more soulful songs, the majority of songs are closer to wannabe punk rock anthems. Thus, it is interesting that Green Day ends this upbeat album with a slow song played on the ukulele. “Ordinary World,” takes all the zeal and temper felt throughout the album and fades it into a kind of whimsical sadness. This song is Armstrong’s recognition that his past is gone, and he is going to have to settle down and live the life of the common 40-year-old. It is strange yet fascinating to end the album about revolution with a peaceful song about living in an ordinary world. All the same, it is doubtful that Billie Joe is going to give up that easily. Green Day is not going down without a fierce fight, which they make very clear on this album.
Voices’ Choices: “Outlaws;” “Still Breathing”