Hearing Aide: Green Day’s “Revolution Radio”

gdalbumI remember it vividly: On a long bus ride for an elementary school field trip, one of my oldest friends handed me a cassette that would be the very first turning point on the musical journey that my life has become.

The year was 1993, and I was very much into rap at the tender age of 8. Caleb, who had a serious disdain for my musical choices at the time, took my Walkman and inserted a recently released tape of Kerplunk, Green Day’s second album. I’d never heard of the band, and was not sure what to expect.

The snarling growl that accompanied Billie Joe Armstrong’s guitar slapped my eardrums around on the opening track, “2,000 Light Years Away,” and I didn’t know what to do. It was odd, at first, but as I made my way through the tracks, I became quickly hooked on the pop-punk that would soon propel Green Day into super-stardom.

And this was only the beginning of what became my first, and biggest, band obsession. I made my parents get me their debut album, 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, which was a compilation of all their earliest material. I loved Green Day before anyone knew who they were.

Later that year, a friend and I devised a plan to get our parents to take us to see them at Union College in Schenectady. To make a very long and boring story short, the two of us ended up by ourselves at the concert, swinging and swaying in a rowdy group of maybe 1,000 people, and I will never forget the awe I felt seeing a trio of early 20s kids playing the fastest and catchiest rock and roll on the planet. It started a live music obsession that, to this day, comes first in my life after my family and work.

I can talk about how Dookie is my all-time favorite album ever released by anyone, or about how Insomniac spoke to my pre-pubescent self better than anyone, or how Nimrod, while not universally liked, showed how Green Day can shake things up. What about Warning, which featured a bevy of instruments which helped the band veer away from three-chord pop-punk? Or how American Idiot vaulted the band back to super popularity and brought music and politics together again? I don’t think we need to talk much about 21st Century Breakdown, or their quickly released trio of albums, Uno, Dos and Tres, which were not Green Day’s best efforts.

Now, 23 years later, Green Day just dropped its 12th studio album, Revolution Radio, and I have to say that for a band I idolized growing up, then grew to despise a bit in the mid-2000s, they have reeled me right back in. Gone are the days of songs about masturbation, moving out of mom’s house and staying up all night snorting meth.

And while it has some political undertones, Revolution Radio really is a 12-song collection of angst, anger, mortality and youthful remembrance by Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool. And it’s fast, loud, mean and chock full of emotion and that “we don’t give a fuck what you think” attitude that made me fall head over heels 23 years ago.

“Somewhere Now” starts the album with a Clash kind of feel. Its catchy chorus and clever wording simply give way to the meat of this album. “Bang Bang,” the first single released, shoots out at you like a bullet from a stolen gun. “Daddy’s little psycho and mommy’s little soldier” is a line that hits close to home, as this was me as a child. Great choice for a single, and it’s mean as hell with that charm that only Green Day can insert into a morbid song.

“Revolution Radio” is the catchiest song on the album, and is as close to classic Green Day as it gets. Think the anger and destruction captured throughout Insomniac and this is what you’re getting in the title track. “Say Goodbye” opens with a vibe of The Wall-era Pink Floyd, then quickly transforms into a preachy ditty that touches on, presumably, the recent spate of violence in this country involving police.

“Outlaws” is a love song that misses its mark. It is the only song that seems out of place here. “Bouncing Off The Wall” is another throwback to Armstrong’s wilder days, before he went to rehab a few years ago.

“Still Breathing,” “Youngblood” and “Too Dumb To Die” are a trilogy of songs that I have listened to over and over in the last 72 hours. “Youngblood” is a punk rock love song that ends with the subject saying “but fuck you I’m from Oakland” and is a great way to close it out.

“Too Dumb To Die” is about reckless behavior from the band’s past, and became my favorite song from the band in many, many years. It’s the most punk rock thing on the entire album, and maybe of the band’s career. “Troubled Times,” “Forever Now” and “Ordinary World” touch back on the societal and political unrest in the country, without slamming it down our throats like American Idiot did.

Overall, this is the best Green Day album, in my opinion, since Nimrod. Green Day returned to what made the world fall in love with them and made it angrier, faster, louder and catchier.

I am certainly back into this band like it’s 1997.

Key Tracks: Too Dumb To Die, Revolution Radio, Youngblood, Bang Bang

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OA6TsRQzoo