LP Review: Green Day “Revolution Radio,” They retrench and relaunch

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I’m like everybody else when it comes to Green Day. They swept into my life like a juggernaut through a town square when their major label debut “Dookie” came out. In my mind, I tend to lump them in with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and all the other “grunge” bands that took over the world of music in the 90s, but when I think about it, Green Day was really always a bit apart. First and foremost I think of most the grunge bands as being informed by punk rock, but Green day actually was a punk rock band. Most of the grunge scene erupted out of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest and Green Day germinated in Oakland.

“Dookie” was so over played and beat to death by rock radio and I actually sold my copy at the used record store. “Dookie” was so massive it sort of dwarfed their two, fine, follow-up albums, “Insomniac” and “Nimrod.” I completely lost track of them, such was my saturation with “Dookie.” Oh sure, an occasional track would slip through my rather intense filter: “Geek Stink Breath” (my wife, the Rock Chick’s all time favorite), “Hitchin’ A Ride,” and “Brain Stew” were all great tracks, but I never investigated either of those records. It didn’t help that the ubiquitous single “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” became such a huge success. Once again radio beat Green Day to death before I could really get into them. And, I’ll be the first to admit, I just hate that song.

On one of my first dates with the Rock Chick we went to a record store, something I’d never done on a date before… stupid me. She bought a stack of CDs almost as tall as she was and one of them was Green Day’s “Warning,” an album I just loved immediately. We played it all evening long over pasta and a whole lot of wine, but I digress. Billie Joe Armstrong could write hooks all day long. There wasn’t a dud on that record. I began to investigate the Rock Chick’s other Green Day records and bam I was in. I even rediscovered “Dookie” for the classic it is. What jumped out at me on those records was how fantastic the rhythm section was – Mike Dirnt is a great bassist and Tre Cool may be the best drummer out there today.

Even though “Warning” was a great record, it appears Green Day’s creative process had broken down as the pressure to repeat “Dookie’s” success loomed, even 4 records in. The band ended up going to “band counciling” something akin to marriage counciling where Billie Joe admitted the pressure he felt was causing him to be hesitant to share new material with the band and to their, at the time, withering criticism. He apparently went on to admit that he’d always wanted to write the punk rock “Bohemian Rhapsody.” With the air cleared and the creative process open to roam free, Green Day came out with two Rock Operas in a row. “American Idiot” was probably the best of the two, but I think there was some great music on “21st Century Breakdown.”

After “21st Century Breakdown” came out I think everybody could agree the rock opera thing was probably played out. Instead of going back to basics and putting out a simple, straight forward punk rock album, over achiever Billie Joe Armstrong wrote 3 albums worth of material. I really liked “Uno,” “Dos” and “Tre” but the Rock Chick, who had loved Green Day much longer than I did, dismissed the albums as too polished and overproduced. I have to agree with her there, they were very polished records. She missed the raw menace of their earlier records. I think like all multiple albums, there was probably one great album somewhere there within the three. No one will ever convince me that “Kill the DJ” isn’t a stone cold classic. I think I may be the only person who really loved that trio of records, alas… Sadly Billie Joe succumbed to substance abuse and the subsequent tour was cancelled.

Which all leads me to their new, Billboard chart-topping LP, “Revolution Radio.” At last we have that return to a more raw, “punkier” sound, trimmed to just twelves songs. While this is not a rock opera per se, there are some definite themes and repeated lyrics that show up in different songs that tie the songs together. The entire album feels very much a unified whole. After the head-fake opening track, “Somewhere Now,” now which starts off acoustic for a minute or two then explodes into an electric anthem, Green Day snarl back with a triptych of some of their hardest music in quite a while: “Bang Bang,” “Revolution Radio,” and “Say Goodbye.” “Bang Bang” is a harrowing look inside a mass shooter’s thoughts. “Revolution Radio” is the call to arms here and for reasons I can’t explain reminds me of the Clash, or at least something they’d have written. Current events are very much a part of the lyrical make up of this album. “Troubled Times” is another topical kick ass tune. “Youngbloods,” a tune that may be written for Billie’s wife, is another great, upbeat tune and may be my favorite of the litter. “Forever Now” is punchy fun.

All that said, there are a handful of songs that are little more polished. I love the idea of the song “Outlaws,” but that chorus sounds like it was made for arena-ready crowds to sing along with. No matter how punk Green Day and Billie Joe Armstrong are, they know how to write and exploit a hook. They simply can’t help it, they’re just melodic song writers. “Still Breathing” is a song I like but I wouldn’t describe it as a punk song. “Ordinary World” is an acoustic strummer that ends the album, and is much akin to “Good Riddance.” While I hated the latter song, I must say the new one doesn’t evoke that feeling in me yet… If they start playing “Ordinary World” at every wedding I go to like “Good Riddance” was, I reserve the right to change my mind on that…

Other than those handful of songs, the guitar is loud and punky throughout. Tre Cool’s drums are, as always, amazing. He’s probably the punkest thing about this record. His drum fills on “Bang Bang” are heart pounding. Mike Dirnt, the master of the strolling bass line is in fine form here as well. The band sounds rejuvenated and reinvigorated. The world needs an important band like Green Day who can rock this hard and still carry a social message. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind seeing a little Revolution around here and what better place than on the Radio?

This one is a definite recommended buy from B&V. Turn this one up loud and enjoy!

Cheers!

Green Day’s New Single, “Bang Bang” – Rock Chick Approved!

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I was once again forced by my corporate overlords to travel to California this week. I actually ended up in San Francisco for most of the week, which is coincidentally only a bridge away from the home base of Hall of Fame Punk Rockers, Green Day. Ironically, it was only last weekend I lamented that Green Day were overdue for some new music,  and whilst I was in their neighborhood, Green Day drops a new single on the world. As I read on line recently, I’m not sure if that’s truly irony or just coincidence, because Alanis Morissette really confused me on the whole “ironic” thing but I digress.

I was beginning to worry about Green Day. It’s been four years since they’d released three albums at once, “Uno,” “Dos” and “Tre.” Billie Joe Armstrong had a very public meltdown and ended up in rehab for addiction to prescription drugs. It goes back to what I always say, kids, stick to dark brown, murky, fermented fluids. Pills and powders only lead to trouble. A few years ago Billie Joe did release a beautiful, quiet duets album of Everly Brothers’ covers with Norah Jones, “Foreverly.” And while I loved that record, it’s not exactly punk or even rock. It’s not a record I’d put on at a party. It’s more of a, sitting on the roof with a tumbler of Blanton’s and a cigar kind of a record.

I am probably the only person who really dug the trio of albums they released in 2012. Like everybody I got on the Green Day bandwagon when “Dookie” ruled the world. That album was inescapable. I eventually sold it, it was so overplayed. “Insomniac” and “Nimrod” never really interested me and it wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick and she reintroduced Green Day to me that I got back on the bandwagon. On one of our early dates, I took the Rock Chick to the record store and she bought a giant stack of CDs which included Green Day’s “Warning.” Wow, that album knocked me out. Overlooked masterpiece? I think so.

Then Green Day went into this “punk rock opera” phase that was hit and miss. I liked “American Idiot” but “21st Century Breakdown” was a bit “meh” for me. When they announced the trio of records in 2012 I was excited as it appeared they’d come out of the rock opera phase and were going back to their punk rock roots again. And, while I loved those records, they were pretty polished for a punk rock band. It was a return to shorter songs, freed from any “story cycle” but the rough, punkier edges had been sanded off. The Rock Chick immediately dismissed the music as overproduced schlock and despaired of bands growing older and losing their edge. I eventually got her to slip “Stay The Night,” “Makeout Party,” “Kill the DJ” and few others onto her “Green Day Playlist.” Even Billie Joe Armstrong admitted that they were striving for a more punk sound but ended up getting the opposite on those records. I don’t care, “Kill the DJ” is still a great Green Day song, no matter what anybody tells you.

So it was with great trepidation that I told the Rock Chick that Green Day had released a new single. I returned from California and quietly mentioned they had a new single out, hoping for some modicum of interest from the Rock Chick. We immediately purchased “Bang Bang” and after the first listen through, to my considerable delight, the Rock Chick nodded, smiled slightly and said, “Well call me pleasantly surprised…” Trust me folks, this is high praise from the Rock Chick.

I have to tell you, “Bang Bang” was everything I thought “Uno,” “Dos,” and “Tre” were going to be. It’s a raw guitar sound that I just love from these guys. Tre Cool’s drumming on this tune is amazing, he’s simply one of the best drummers out there. Mike Dirnt’s bass line is in the pocket, baby! (I’m not even sure what that means… but the bass line is awesome) This tune rocks with an urgency I haven’t heard from Green Day in a long time. The lyrics feel torn from the headlines. The song tells the story of a mass shooting from the viewpoint of the deranged shooter. Controversial, perhaps – but it certainly makes the point that maybe, just maybe, we ought to rethink gun laws around here. “I want to be a celebrity martyr” howls Billie Joe Armstrong and you almost worry he’s armed. It’s chilling, thought provoking and it rocks. What more can you ask for from rock and roll. I was reminded of some of the stronger political stuff the Clash did back in the day. If the rest of the new album, “Revolution Radio” (a title I just love) is as strong as this first single, this is going to be not only a great album, but an important album.

Turn it up loud on this hot summer day and enjoy!

Cheers!