Revolution Radio is pure Green Day. It’s highly marketable pop-punk that harkens to the punk side. The power chords with the occasional acoustic pluck and cymbal-heavy drumming harkens back to before Billy Joe Armstrong got a little overly preachy on 21st Century Breakdown and the pretentious pomposity of the purported garage rock of Uno, Dos, Tre. Green Day is back in their wheelhouse with the sound of early 2000s nondescript angst.
That being said, that doesn’t make the album objectively good. It’s as good as Green Day has ever been outside of the anthemic American Idiot, which is to say solid, but by no means ‘revolutionary’ or innovative. The album cover of a radio on fire is ironic, since Revolution Radio’s lead single “Bang Bang” topped a Billboard chart and only one song would require a radio edit.
The album’s title track sums up Green Day’s career thesis statement: “We are revolution radio / Operation no control and the headline / My love’s bulletproof / Give me cherry bombs and gasoline.” Green Day is the commercial face of radio punk (and has been since 1994’s Dookie) without necessarily representing the community as a whole. They claim to be out of control when perhaps they’re only being a tad unruly, but still accumlate enviable media attention. Their music remains generically sappy and violent, but hasn’t really ever been counter-culture outside of a high school audience.
Some of the tracks are more soulful, some punkier; several mix the two in true Green Day fashion, combining “la la la” harmonies with socio-political charged yet simple lyricism. The music dances between two worlds just as the words with the same conflicted themes, as best seen on “Still Breathing”: “I’m like a junkie tying off for the last time / I’m like a loser that’s betting on his last dime / Oh, I’m still alive / I’m like a son that was raised without a father / I’m like a mother barely keeping it together / Oh, I’m still alive.”
The album behooves multiple listens to see if there’s something deeper going on there, but on first impression Revolution Radio offers nothing new from the SoCal trio. It’s tough to say that Green Day is over the hill, but it seems like the members fear that they are.
Track 9, entitled “Too Dumb to Die,” deals with anxiety. Perhaps Green Day was supposed to have died off by now — what with Armstrong taking up acting, American Idiot somehow ending up on Broadway, and Revolution Radio is still generating buzz long after the band’s 2004 peak. But alas Green Day hangs around, making solid music that’ll probably be forgotten by the time “American Idiot on Ice” is pitched and sold to the highest bidder.