Sometimes a person has to wonder if album art is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Maybe that’s a tiny bit of a stretch, but after the release of Green Day’s newest album, Revolution Radio, it definitely doesn’t seem that way. The album cover depicts a stainless-steel boombox melting under the heat of a fire—some might find it to be a symbol of the band setting the music industry aflame. After an analysis of Revolution Radio, it feels more like a meltdown of what gave Green Day its fame in the first place.
It is important to establish that Revolution Radio is not a bad album, per se. Green Day’s newest work isn’t poorly executed at all—quite the contrary, in all truthfulness. On the other hand, though, the band seems to be struggling under the weight of its own fame and long-running popularity. For a moment, consider what has driven Green Day into the limelight of the punk rock scene for so many years. There are arguably two major factors at work here: a solid understanding of music fundamentals (necessary for any halfway-decent band, of course) and a spirit of rebellion that spits in the face of the American status quo. Take either of these things away, and all that remains is a shell of the former Green Day. The music mastery is certainly still here, but the fire of unique creativity feels as though it is dimming.
Maybe it’s somewhat presumptuous to assume that the band has completely run dry of ideas—after all, there are a few pieces of Revolution Radio that work rather well. With an extremely strong drumbeat and guitar riff, “Say Goodbye” is a punky anthem for the oppressed in America.
With lyrics like, “Violence on the rise / Like a bullet in the sky / Oh Lord, have mercy on my soul / Kindred spirits sing / For the sick and suffering / The city of damage control / This is how we roll,” the band does not seem to have lost its songwriting edge, either. “Outlaws,” too, is another good example—the intermixing of the “faded memory” of youth and the destruction of suburbia is a nice stylistic choice. And even beyond deeper meanings, most songs on the album range anywhere from relatively catchy to stuck-in-your-head-for-three-days material.
And, honestly, therein lies the frustration of Revolution Radio. The music is (at very worst) on par with earlier albums, but nothing that Green Day has produced in the past year feels as though it pushed the band’s envelope by any means at all. Though it may seem strange to say it—counterintuitive, even—Green Day seems to be nonconformist in the most conformist way possible. “Bang Bang,” for example, features Billie Joe Armstrong in the guise of a school shooter, singing about his deep desire to murder his peers for fame and TV time. Edgy, right? Well…not really, especially considering the fact that ten other artists ran with this idea already (most infamously would be Foster the People with its 2011 song “Pumped Up Kicks”).
Perhaps the cleanest, most colloquial way to say it is like this: with Revolution Radio, Green Day has definitely phoned it in.
In 2009, Green Day published 21st Century Breakdown, a massively popular album which featured one of the band’s classic works, “21 Guns.” Five years previous to this, Green Day released American Idiot, a masterpiece which included both “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and the song for which the album was named, “American Idiot.” Each of these (and many albums beforehand) produced the classics of Green Day, songs which challenged not only the band, but also the greater society. And this is exactly where Revolution Radio falls flat. Even the strongest of Green Day’s newest work is unlikely to have much impact on the band or the listeners.
Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s hard to deny that Green Day’s calling card is a sense of rebellion in the face of a conformist society. In some sense, they embody the entirety of what the punk rock genre is—non-acceptance of the norm. Now, the band finds itself in a challenging position: find a new way not to conform, or fall by the wayside.
Featured Image By Reprise Records