Context – catching up on my Mondays
After having lunch with my parents yesterday, my dad reminded me that not only is Green Day a band that exists, but they have a new album out. Which I knew in a way that wasn’t concrete, so every time I hear about their new album it’s almost like I’m hearing about it for the first time again.
Which is insane, categorically speaking, considering I’ve heard the singles from the album several times. I remember hearing “Bang Bang” over the summer and thinking maybe Green Day is returning to their punk-rawk form, only to hear “Still Breathing” and thinking it’s one of Andrew McMahon’s new songs.
Also, I was putting off listening to AFI’s new album, which was going to be the album of the day. I couldn’t get through the intro of the first song without realizing there was no way I was going to be able to feign objectivity with that one, so I instead pivoted to this album.
Which isn’t a bad album by most metrics. The metrics in which Revolution Radio fails are comparing it to Dookie, comparing it to other punk records, or trying to see if there’s a meaningful difference between this and American Idiot (there isn’t). Tré Cool hasn’t been able to keep up with punk drumming since Warning, and they’ve seemingly been on a more generic alternative rock bent ever since.
It’s hard to argue with their results, as they’ve since become one of the bigger acts in rock-n-roll for our generation. For those of us who grew up with Dookie and Insomniac, however, their more recent projects have left much to be desired.
This is a situation I find myself progressively more interested in as I get older and more bands I grew up with make similar “creative” decisions with regards to their work. I call this “The Fleetwood Mac Paradigm”, considering they’re the band that really helped me come to terms with the phenomenon. If you’ve somehow escaped American popular music for the past 40 years or so, Fleetwood Mac started as a blues-rock band in the 60s, but after a lineup change became more of a pop-rock act. Looking at their discography, the major shift happened roughly halfway through the bands creative output, so for the half the time they were presumably blues-centric (I have to take this on faith, I’m not super familiar with their pre-Buckingham/Nicks material). Post shift? The band releases Fleetwood Mac and Rumours, the latter of which is one of the best-selling and well-regarded albums of all time. So what about all of the fans who probably felt betrayed by this tonal shift? Are Fleetwood Mac the ultimate sell-outs?
Probably. But unfortunately for the die-hards, many people growing up today aren’t really aware of Fleetwood Mac’s origins, choosing instead to just keep spinning Rumours. And why should they be expected to do anything else? You probably know all 10 of those songs, even if you haven’t consciously listened to the album before. It’s that good. Should they have stuck to their roots, limiting as that may be? Is artistic integrity more important than sphere of influence and other audience considerations?
I go on this long-winded tangent about Fleetwood Mac because we can draw similar parallels to Green Day (or more recently Fall Out Boy, who did a similar about-face from pop-punk to pop-barely-rock): American Idiot and Revolution Radio are hardly punk albums in any sort of modern context of the word, but if the job is to write music that will impact a growing audience and generate a sizable profit, it’s really difficult to argue with their results.
With this album Green Day has solidified their reputation as the foremost political band in American pop-culture. Maybe one day Rage Against the Machine will reunite and not suck long enough to take back the crown, but for now it belongs to Billy Joel Armstrong and company. They succeed in this arena because while their music is surface-level political (I mean, just check the titles of the albums), it’s not overtly preachy. It plays well to sound-bytes and anthems without being antagonistic towards those who aren’t in the audience. And it works.
This album was fine–I particularly liked the singles. The rest of the album isn’t quite my cup of tea, but that’s because I’m stuck wishing they’re just drop another Dookie. And that’s entirely on me, not them. I’m sure these songs will play great live should I get the chance to see them, and if you didn’t know any better you wouldn’t be able to discern which era of Green Day they were from while you’re in the crowd, screaming along with everybody else.