Green Day made their commercial breakthrough in the mid-1990s with the hit album Dookie, which spawned a major punk revival. This was around the time that I first discovered them, but it wasn’t until hearing 2000’s Warning that I became a huge admirer of the trio and set about buying all of their previous LPs.
2004’s big-selling American Idiot was a concept album set against the backdrop of the war, corruption and injustice caused by a destructive Bush administration, while the follow-up 21st Century Breakdown dealt with life in the aftermath. Afterward, the trio knew that they probably couldn’t progress that much further musically, so in their minds, the only way to take things to a new level was to release a vast amount of songs across a trilogy of albums, 2012’s Uno!, Dos! and Tre!. It was a frustrating experience when they could have easily picked out the best tracks and boiled it down to a superb single album, which would have been up there with any of their best records. Shortly before the release of the three LPs, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong checked into rehab after an onstage meltdown and was later revealed to be crippled by an addiction to drink and drugs. Suddenly it all made sense: the effects of cocaine can drag an artist into a state where they thing that every song they write is a work of genius, hence the hugely flawed triple album.
After a few years of creative renovation, Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool return with an album that disposes of the conceptual themes and unnecessary proliferation, and gets back to what the legendary trio do best: firing out punk rock anthems with hooks so massive you could hang bells off of them.
The melodic opener ‘Somewhere Now‘ packs everything that was great about their previous five albums into one track, and evokes images of the sun rising again, brighter and hotter than it has been for a long time. A perfect metaphor for their 12th studio album. Extra points have to be rewarded for the line “I put the ‘riot’ in ‘patriot,” Sung from the viewpoint of a gun-crazed psychopath, the explosive lead single ‘Bang Bang‘ confirms their return to form with a furious blast of relentless anger, the sort of musical rampage that gives the irresistible urge to crank it up loud and bounce around like a nutter to it. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they’ve not sounded this sharp since 1995’s Insomniac. The superb title track is classic Green Day: an addictive protest anthem that has major fist-in-the-air factor and a chorus that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
On first listen, the surging stomp of ‘Say Goodbye‘ may come across as a rehash of 2004’s ‘Holiday‘, but after only a couple more plays it soon reveals itself to be a superior and ultimately stronger offering. Initially, ‘Outlaws‘ may lack the energy of the first four tracks, but stick with it and you’ll soon fall in love with its nostalgic, reflective power. As far as Green Day ballads go, it sits firmly on the throne. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find the no-nonsense party anthem ‘Bouncing Off The Wall‘, where the fun factor is dialed up to the max, while the stunning ‘Still Breathing‘ is an inspiring statement of survival; battle-worn, bruised and stronger after pulling through it all.
The only misstep in is the undeniably throwaway ‘Youngblood‘, which sounds like the work of a teenage school band struggling to write their first original composition. Luckily it’s the album’s only weak point and does little to blunt the impact of the other 11 tracks. The vigorous chorus in ‘Too Dumb To Die‘ may heavily “borrow” from Alkaline Trio‘s ‘We’ve Had Enough‘, but its brilliance is too much to resist, while ‘Troubled Times‘ takes on a suitably darker tone, combining introspection with heaving riffage to captivating effect. The spirit of The Clash runs heavily and proudly through the superb three-part medley ‘Forever Now‘, successfully pulling off a trick that 2009’s ‘21st Century Breakdown‘ didn’t quite hit the mark with. The band’s versatility is showcased with the closing ‘Ordinary World‘, a sublime acoustic moment that could make grown men cry.
Just as many people had lost faith, the stellar ‘Revolution Radio‘ reaffirms Green Day’s status as spiky-haired magicians who can create endless amounts of brilliance despite only being armed with a few very basic ingredients. It’s not just a case of going back-to-basics, it’s a rediscovery of where their strengths lie, a reigniting of their fire, and symbolic of a group who have survived the dark days and re-emerged stronger than ever. There’s the rebellious spirit, the boundless energy, the party tunes, the big melodies, and the benefits of experience and wisdom that enable the punk veterans to look back on youth with hindsight, showing that their insurgent streak is not only fully intact but bolder and deeper with age. Like the flaming ghettoblaster on the iconic front cover, Green Day are well and truly on fire.