It will probably sound strange to the legions of fans that Green Day has won in the years since the release of American Idiot (let’s be honest – the band now has some supporters who are too young to remember when Kerplunk! was released), but the first words which will cross the minds of fans who were at least tall enough to get into the Gilman when Dookie blew up as they listen to Revolution Radio will be, “Fuck – finally.”
The reason for that is simple: all of them have quietly been waiting for this album since American Idiot exploded and the band then proceeded to take “big” too far. After the “big concept album” which should have marked a tremendous moment in the band’s career had come and gone, Green Day had no idea what to do next so they just kept trying to one-up themselves. 21 st Century Breakdown was another concept album and was good but ultimately a shadow of its predecessor and the mammoth Uno!/Dos!/Tre!/Quatro! concept was the dictionary definition of indulgent.
It’s important to state that none of those albums was bad or anything – in fact, each proved to be an unbelievable statement about where music was that a punk band was able to attain such milestones as well as be accepted by core fans as well as the other newcoming hordes. When all was said and done, American Idiot, 21 st Century Breakdown and the ‘numbers’ tetrology established Green Day as the only punk band other than The Clash to attain the status of “Rock Gods” without also experiencing a recoil from older fans who have been dogmatically taught to equate success with selling out. It was really, really fun to watch.
“Fun?” Sure – but let’s be honest: the “big huge” angle that Green Day not only took but incrementally inflated during the years between 2004 and 2012 got tiresome for some fans. Eventually, all those fans really wanted to hear was a set of simple, silly three-minute punk songs as only Green Day could make. Revolution Radio FINALLY deliver that to listeners – and it is good.
It also has the good common sense to not come off like the exorcism of a mid-life crisis [the average age of the bandmembers is now 44]. Musically, no track digs back and tries to recreate the energy of Kerplunk or Dookie; the guitars echo back to that period on occasion (check out “Bang Bang,” “Still Breathing” and “Youngblood,” for solid examples of vintage Green Day at its finest, as played now by grown-ups), but Billie Joe Armstrong isn’t trying to convince anyone that he has spontaneously regressed. Sure, there’s still talk of “Cherrybombs and gasoline” (see the title track) and the “Daddy’s little psycho and mommy’s little soldier” like (from “Bang Bang”) would fit easily onto any of Green Day’s eleven other studio albums, but there is still an understated maturity about the composition of the songs as well as in the performance (read: while the energy is high and remains consistently so throughout this runtime it doesn’t sound lean and speedy like early Green Day albums always did – there’s an unavoidable punch all the way along through Revolution Radio.
Elsewhere, as the record progresses, there are sonic nods to Green Day’s stronger mid-period work (that would be Nimrod and Warning) in tracks like “Bouncing Off The Wall,” “Too Dumb To Die” and “Forever Now” which successfully both reacquaint listeners with the angles and edges of that sound as well as tying every sound together into a neat little package which says, “these things have all been Green Day” without being heavy-handed about it or overstating the point. And, by the time “Ordinary World” rips its way through to close the album, those listening will already know that, in twelve tracks played over forty-four minutes, Green Day has not only given listeners precisely what they’ve hoped for from the band for years, the band has given them better than they could possibly have hoped for: an album, which incorporates elements of their early material and using that to inform new work which sound genuinely fresh. It may have been a long time in coming, but it was worth the wait.