2016 saw an increase in old bands – careers supposedly done and over with – coming back with new songs. Following this ‘throwback made a comeback’ wave, Green Day release Bang Bang in August, lead single of their latest album Revolution Radio, out earlier this month. This nostalgia for old music, feels like an older generation whose need to feed their melancholic ego allows no place for the youth to express and expand themselves.
Green Day are a perfect example of this phenomenon, their latest LP looks more like a love letter to their contemporaries rather than a representation of their younger fans. Revolution Radio is the first album in which the group is completely in charge of – from the song writing to the production – a return to the Dookie era, where the riffs were fast, violent and with and underlying urgency of releasing anger towards the system. On another end, the lyrics are a reminder of the politically driven American Idiot.
The album opener Somewhere now starts slowly, as an acoustic ballad only to get a faster rocky pace, a sad letter written by a middle age man to his teenage self, telling him how ‘dull’ and ‘medicated’ his life is now. It is hard to tell if Billie Joe is dwelling in self-pity or is trying to make the best of what he has. The follow up, Bang Bang would fit right in as a side B for Longview or Basket Case, not only does it have the manic drums exploding with wrathful lyrics, the lead guitar is crying out for blood just like the psychotic, social media fanatic school shooter Armstrong is impersonating.
Youngblood is a cringe worthy pop influenced track. The melody suggests more a young stumbling band en devenir than an established rock band, who feels slightly out of place in the sound they brought to the “mainstream radio”. Troubled times is in the same lane, there is no innovation to the instrumental, Armstrong voice is nasally repeating hippy cliches and stereotypes, “What good is love and peace on earth? / When it’s exclusive/ So don’t look twice/ We live in troubled times“.
The album is teeming with clichés even Revolution Radio, which has the ostentation to be the new American Idiot, falls flat, repeating “Legalize the truth“, as if being in a demonstration to legalize weed. In spite of the sleazy lyrics, the song still offers the album brilliant instrumentals, a glimpse into what Green Day were at their best. Ordinary World finishes the album on a grief-stricken note. Billie Joe weepingly sings “The days into years roll by/ It’s where that I live until I die (…) How can I leave a buried treasure behind?” maybe it is time after an album as outdated as this one to leave the band behind, retreat somewhere and just let the years pass by.
In a decade where politics and social struggle seem more important than ever, the after baby boom generation is trying to lead the millennials, holding on to strategies which worked a few decades ago, but are obsolete now. The music industry is guilty of that as well, putting on a pedestal bands from the 90’s and onwards, that are now tiredly trying to reclaim an available platform which the new generation of artists is left out of. Revolution Radio, comes only a year after Sounds Good Feels Good, an admittedly clumsy album by 5 seconds of summer, but still an album made for a generation, tackling their problems and interests. Unfortunately, with the critics acclaiming this ‘throwback comeback’ wave because of nostalgia, it will be hard for newcomers to be taken seriously, especially if they keep being compared to old bands. Revolution Radio, tries, desperately to be relevant in 2016, but all it does is bring light on a band who cannot let go of a place they should’ve left long ago. In the Nobel Prize winner of the year’s words “Don’t criticize/What you can’t understand/Your old road is rapidly aging/Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand/Cause the times they are a-changin“.
Words by Noura Ikhlef