A few years ago, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was in a bad place. Having seen his band’s lacklustre album trilogy Uno, Dos, Tres experience poor sales and even poorer reactions, he subsequently spiralled into a medication-infused state of madness for which he entered rehab. For a while, it seemed almost as though the end was nigh for Armstrong and his bandmates (bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool), but eventually things improved and the band’s fall from grace evaporated into thin air. Armstrong started leading a rejuvenated life, setting his priorities straight and getting down to what was most important – the future of Green Day, one of the world’s most outspoken and legendary punk outfits. Before they got down to business, though, something had to change. They couldn’t just go out there, make some standard punk songs and release them; rather, they had to mean something before anybody could hear them.
Battling a general sense of disjointedness, Armstrong and co. emerged with Revolution Radio, their first studio effort in nearly four years (due tomorrow, 7 October) and by far one of the most brash and abrasive collections of music that the trio have come up with. Comprising of twelve in-your-face punk bangers, Revolution Radio is Green Day’s best work since 2004’s majestic American Idiot, an album which maintained the spirit of punk just as much as Revolution Radio also looks set to do. Pre-release teasers Bang Bang, Revolution Radio and Still Breathing laid the foundations of what the rest of the record provides, namely ferocious rhythms, grisly guitar lines and Billie Joe Armstrong’s honest and confrontational lyrics. The record, which bemoans society in a way only Armstrong can master, is a Green Day classic which harks back to the trio’s late 90s/early 2000s glory days, a time during which the band were absolutely unstoppable. Gone are the band’s experimental rock flourishes and concept album storylines, both of which have been removed in favour of straight-up punk and one ferocious missive: to find one another in dire times. It’s not always at the same pace as earlier albums Dookie or American Idiot, but Revolution Radio seems to be the perfect balance between old-school Green Day and the newer brand of punk they helped nurture and evolve in recent years.
Album opener Somewhere Now misleads the listener with slow acoustic strums at first, before introducing bombastic guitars and Armstrong’s towering vocals. He sounds like a man reborn, his voice both fragile and majestic at the same time. As the record subsequently progresses, Armstrong’s delivery and missives are projected on a grander scale, ranging from Bang Bang’s anti-ISIS declarations and Outlaws’ political ideology all the way through to Too Dumb to Die’s youthful anecdotes (“I was a high school atom bomb, going off on the weekends”) and Troubled Times’ emotional musings on love and peace (“What use are love and peace on Earth when it’s exclusive?”). On Revolution Radio, Green Day are asking all the right questions at the perfect moments. At a time where ISIS reign supreme over the Middle East and America is on the cusp of political breakdown, Armstrong and co. offer their services as the voice of not only a generation, but of a whole planet. It might seem like quite a bold claim, but in the grand scheme of things, a politically-charged new Green Day album is exactly what people could do with. Both lyrically and musically, it’s one of the year’s best rock albums, displaying a whole barrage of caterwauling riffs, massive solos and pulsating rhythms. Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool are still one of music’s best rhythm sections, even if their output is that of simple punky standards. At almost seven minutes in length, penultimate track Forever Now is one of the album’s biggest eye-openers, opening on a very bold declaration: “my name is Billie and I’m freaking out”. Admittedly it’s a very simple lyric, but in the context of Armstrong’s recent past it paints a vivid picture which is accompanied by walls of sound. The track changes tack and slows down halfway through, before a bombastic ending (which lends itself well to earlier album 21st Century Breakdown) makes way for the subdued album finale, Ordinary World. The acoustic-centric track picks up where the first part of Somewhere Now left off, utilizing nothing more than an acoustic guitar and some twinkling keys. Compared to the rash abrasiveness of the rest of the record, it’s definitely an unexpectedly serene ending.
“I want to start a revolution, and I want to hear it on the radio” declares Armstrong during the aforementioned Forever Now, and this is the one line which perfectly demonstrates his band’s mission objective throughout the whole album. 2016 is a year of change, and it’s also doubling up as a year in which Green Day re-emerge from the undergrowth and prove exactly why they’re keeping the spirit of punk well and truly alive. Welcome back, guys.
Green Day – Revolution Radio
Out now via Warner Music. Stream it below.