Operation No Control: Green Day’s Revolution Radio

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Green Day was a ubiquitous part of my adolescence. My brother’s, too. I still believe that he was inspired to pick up a guitar after watching the music video for “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” on VH-1.

What an antiquated sentence that was. I also think sock hops are groovy.

Anyway, that brings us to Revolution Radio, the band’s twelfth studio album. While the first single, “Bang Bang”, expertly combines raw punk with a political message—something at which the trio of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool excel—it didn’t really grab me. That and the fact that I was still burned out from the bands’ previous offering, the aural triptych ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!, I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to listen to the rest of the album. I figured I’d get around to it, eventually. It was actually my dear friend’s return visit from Taiwan that made me want to listen to the album in its entirety. He described his journey home, soundtracked by the album, particularly one of the album’s best songs, “Still Breathing”.

While the outlook of the song may sway toward the grim, everyone will be able to relate to at least one of the track’s lyrics. It’s one of the most poppy tracks the band has ever written, outside of maybe “Warning” (which sounds suspiciously like The Kinks’ “Picture Book”) or “Poprocks and Coke”. Just give it a listen and you’ll be convinced that you can accomplish all your goals and dreams in the time that you’re still breathing on your own. The track is followed up by another great track, “Youngblood“, a pop punk love song dedicated to Armstrong’s wife, his “cedar in the trees of Minnesota.”

“Youngblood” gives way to “Troubled Times”, a clichéd title that’s become all too real recently, and is followed by the penultimate “Forever Now”, an ambitious almost-seven-minute epic reminiscent of tracks like “Jesus of Suburbia”, “Homecoming”, “21st Century Breakdown” and “American Eulogy”. Armstrong, who’s been doing this for almost thirty years, sings “If this is what you call the good life / I want a better way to die.” Almost echoing the bleak sentiments in “Troubled Times”, this is probably the one lyric that rings truest on the entire album.

The album closes with the lovely, acoustically sedate “Ordinary World”, one of the most tender tracks Armstrong has ever written. The title is shared with a recently released film in which Armstrong plays an aging rocker trying to reconcile his life as a family man with his life in a band that never took off. Consider it an alternate reality story where Green Day never caught on. It looks ridiculous and honest.

Revolution Radio is a call to arms for a war that has yet to happen. Nowhere is that more evident than in the band’s title track, where Armstrong sings, “Legalize the truth!” It’s got all the makings of a revolutionary anthem that demands to be blasted from shattered car speakers, crackling with forgotten static.

It’s not an instant classic like American Idiot or even Dookie, but with instantly catchy lyrical melodies, it’s still quintessential Green Day, and there’s a lot to like about this album. Channeling The Who of the late-60s/early-70s (especially Who’s Next), Revolution Radio is definitely a step in the right direction from the aforementioned trilogy of albums and gives me hope that the band has another generation-defining album inside them.

I have to give a special thanks to my friend for showing me this album and reminding me why I love Green Day. Thanks, lil guy! Now that you’re back in Taiwan, get out there and live your life, because you’re still breathing.

Shine a light into the wreckage:

Stream Revolution Radio on Hoopla

Ross works as a Clerk at the Mt. Washington branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He loves reading books and watching movies and will often ramble about the two here. He’s currently shopping at Hot Topic for black eyeliner and nail polish because it’s not “just a phase,” mom.

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