Green Day — Revolution Radio
In 2004, when Green Day were poised to release their seventh album — American Idiot, the band were at a crossroads. Spurned by hip music listeners following the AC success of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, and linked to the rise of slightly second-rate imitators such as Blink 182 and Good Charlotte, the group had started to introduce new influences into their proceeding album Warning (particularly that of the Kinks). This resulted in a fine guitar pop album, one which was none-the-less roundly ignored by the public when compared to the standards set in their multi-platinum Dookie days.
In a way this lack of success freed Green Day up to follow their muse, and that’s exactly what they did on their magnum opus American Idiot. Moving on from the Kinks to The Who, Billie Joe Armstrong and co. produced a rock opera, complete with multi-part suites, a character driven story (albeit like Pete Townshend’s work one that didn’t necessarily make much sense) and above all a great set of songs.
American Idiot was released shortly before George W. Bush was re-elected for his second term as U.S. president, and managed to capture the confusion and strangeness of the time, all underscored with a rage borrowed from the dozens of American hardcore bands who protested similarly during the Reagan years.
Thanks to its quality, and timing, American Idiot was a massive hit, and for the first time saw Green Day gain critical acclaim. Like the good punks they are Green Day followed up with a wonderful album of garage rock under the moniker the Foxboro Hottubs, before finally producing 20th Century Breakdown — a slightly disappointing Idiot sequel.
Somewhere in this sequence Green Day picked up the mantle of “important band” — a passing of the torch symbolised by a confused collaboration with U2. However like The Clash before them this wasn’t a title that sat well with the group, and while 21st Century Breakdown suggested trouble, the wheels fell off with the trio of 2011 albums UNO, DOS and TRE.
None of these records were bad as such, it was simply that the concept of splitting and releasing three records worth of shiny punk pop was flawed (there was certainly one good album in there), and the entire enterprise was further sunk by Billie Joe Armstrong’s entering rehab for alcoholism, which interrupted touring behind the records, and messed with the proposed release cycle of the whole endeavor.
And so in 2016 Green Day are in the familiar position of needing to prove themselves again. Revolution Radio succeeds at this by reigning in the sprawl of the past 15 years and consolidating the group’s talents into one 44 minute album. That’s not to say this is a cousin of Dookie — Green Day have grown up since then and are a bigger, more professionally produced group than on their early records.
With this increased professionalism comes the ability to pace and deliver a good arena rock record, which is exactly what Revolution Radio is. It’s not a knockout like the group’s best work, but it is an enjoyable take on modern rock circa 2016, and highlights such as “Bang Bang” and “Still Breathing” rank well with the group’s best work.
In the end Revolution Radio gets a derailed train back on to the tracks, and opens up the way forward for more Green Day music. Given that four years ago that was no certainty, it succeeds on those somewhat modest terms.