Album review: ‘Revolution Radio’ finds Green Day scaling back a bit

Annie Zaleski

Three stars

Green Day Revolution Radio

After a string of increasingly ambitious releases—culminating in 2012’s genre grab-bag triptych ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!—the members of Green Day had basically backed themselves into a corner. Now that there were such high expectations attached to their creative output, how could they possibly top themselves on future recordings? Wisely, the Bay Area trio—frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool—figured out that they couldn’t. As a result, Revolution Radio is a no-frills rock ’n’ roll record with no overarching concept, elaborate messaging or instrumentation beyond guitar, bass and drums.

This back-to-basics approach doesn’t equate to a lack of depth. The album-closing “Ordinary World” is a sweet, acoustic song praising the simplicity of everyday life that harkens to Armstrong’s 2013 Norah Jones collaboration, Foreverly. “Forever Now,” meanwhile, is a strident, confident, three-part song celebrating Armstrong’s desire to seize the day and change the world. Unfortunately, though, much of Revolution Radio lacks that urgency. “Outlaws” is a plodding and overly long chronicle of an outsider-gone-bad, while “Still Breathing”—which gives songwriting credit to The Struts’ swaggering “Could Have Been Me”—is disappointingly generic.

Revolution Radio is best when Green Day just lets loose. “Bang Bang” is a slab of jawing punk rock inspired by the nihilistic, powder-keg mentality of mass shooters, while “Too Dumb to Die,” “Youngblood” and the title track are the sorts of springy, devil-may-care pop-punk songs at which the band excels. Green Day established long ago that you can’t manufacture rebellion—something which Revolution Radio’s strongest moments keep top of mind.

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