‘Revolution Radio’: Anything but revolutionary

Photo courtesy of musicfeeds.comPhoto courtesy of musicfeeds.com

By Nick EricksonStaff writer

The punk-rock trio Green Day are a textbook-example of musicians who refuse to accept their aging, and continually pump out tunes deriving sound from the same roots they’ve always had. After 25 years, their twelfth studio album has come around, and while being the band’s first non-concept album since 2000’s “Warning”.  In these twelve-tracks, Green Day delivers the same angst and stabby, yet poppy instrumentals they did as Californian teenagers, retaining their charm, but without stepping outside of their comfort zone.

With the intensity that natural comes with songs on this end of the music spectrum, there is also the need to appeal to the masses. Playing to the lowest-common denominator, Armstrong’s guitar tone sounds processed and synthetic enough to appease an pop-atoned audience unfamiliar with punk. Yet, it is still gritty enough to satisfy long-time fans of the band or punk scene, itself. Bassist Mike Dirnt solidifies the low-end of the mix, while drummer Tré Cool’s bombastic percussion induces headbanging. Armstrongs nasally croon is as tuned as ever. It’s everything one could expect from the trio, give or take a few notes.

  Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong calls out on the album opener “Somewhere Now.” Starting with a surprising melodic acoustic-guitar lead, it’s not long before he full-band verse kicks in with a confident atmosphere. “How did a life on the wild side ever get so dull?,” Armstrong sings, aware of the aging lifestyle. Cool’s pounding snare drives this openers pace, setting the stage for Armstrong and the minimalistic, yet melodic plucking-style of Dirnt.

Lead single “Bang Bang” follows next, picking up pace from the opener track. Backed by a predictable, yet frantic beat, Dirnt and Armstrong both put into their guitars the anger and speed reminiscent of the band’s hits of the 90s. The chorus is tuneful, yet doesn’t hold it’s weight it memorability compared to the likes of the bands past singles including the legendary bass riff of “Longview” from 1994’s “Dookie”.

There is a hefty dose of political commentary on “Revolutionary Radio”, much akin to the trio’s 2004 cult-classic, “American Idiot”. Some tracks touch upon the current state of the country, and a cultural and racial-driven violent agenda. Giving a voice to the relevance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Armstrong sings on the album’s title track of rebellion against the oppression, somewhat of a juxtaposition to the groups proclaimed use of non-violent tactics. “Give me cherry bombs and gasoline,” Armstrong cries out, setting the tone for the rough instrumentation. “Say Goodbye,” is a mix of forceful stomp-and-shout and opinion on police violence, as hinted at by the band’s chant. “Say goodbye to the ones that we love” alternating with “Say hello to the cops on patrol.”

The album’s more “personal” songs is where the band truly is at home with their playing. The claps and strums of “Youngblood” quickly evolve into frantic drumming and a sing-along chant of a girl with youthful charm and a handful of personal mistakes. “Forever Now” is six-minutes of numerous crunchy riffs, choruses and  key changes, maintaining elements of  speedy punk-pop and traditional sing-alongs. The closing ballad “Ordinary World” hits close to the heart, yet is secure within the band’s comfort-zone. “Baby, I don’t have much, but what we have is more than enough,” Armstrong sings over stripped-down production and delicate guitar.

“Revolution Radio” rarely branches out past the boundaries Green Day has built for themselves these past years. Without incorporating fresh elements, the trio has successfully, for the twelfth time, put their skills and thoughts out for millions to hear. There is nary a trace of overly-ambitious nature, but “Revolution Radio” proves that reutilizing the same bag of tricks again and again can prove to put out an acceptable release. As long as Green Day is still active, albeit aged, long live teenage angst.